One of my food resolutions for 2013 is to minimize the amount of food waste that leaves my kitchen in the form of trash.
That means coming up with new uses for kitchen scraps, especially what we think of as “inedible” or “aesthetically unappealing”. So much of what we throw out as trash is really food in another form. By being more mindful in the kitchen, we can do our part to help improve the environment, both locally and globally.
If this sort of thing appeals to you, this New York Times article from July 2011 goes into more detail. When you’re paying Greenmarket prices for a bag of carrots or chard, it behooves you to use every part of your fruit and vegetable produce if you can.
Carrot tops can serve as a substitute for parsley, in small quantities. Cauliflower leaves — when roasted — are to my palate, better than kale chips. Asparagus stalks can be turned into asparagus stock; this lends a subtle dimension to risotto and pasta. Ditto for corn cobs which when simmered in water, develop a faintly sweet corn stock that’s marvelous in vegetable soups, broth and consommé. Celery leaves are an integral part of a battuto; a future project that I have in mind uses dried celery leaves in homemade Old Bay seasoning.
Besides being thrifty, this kind of exercise also helps stimulate creativity, which ultimately leads to discovery, self-education and empowerment. Cooking is as much a teaching and learning process, as it is about pleasure. While not every idea will work the first, second or tenth time you try it, at least you will have gained invaluable experience that you can use going forward. Failure is that which gives meaning to future success.
Fried Oysters, with Frisée Salad and Beet Vinaigrette
This recipe is slightly more complicated than what usually appears on the blog. If you’d like to see future posts in a similar vein, please weigh in by commenting below.
For the oysters:
10 oysters, shucked
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
oil for frying
Heat 2″ of oil in a deep saucepan, wok, or deep skillet to 325 degrees. While the oil is heating combine the flour, cayenne, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Toss the oysters in the flour mixture. When the oil reaches 325 F, fry half the oysters until golden — about 4 minutes. Remove from oil and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Let the oil return to 325 F and fry the remainder of the oysters. Sprinkle oysters with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
For the beet vinegar:
Beet peels and trimmings from 3 or more large cooked beets
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
These are peels and trimmings from three large cooked beets:
Here, you see 1/4 cup red wine vinegar that’s covering the beets:
Place the trimmings in a Tupperware container or glass jar, then cover with vinegar. Cover the container, then place in the refrigerator and let the peels steep for several days, or preferably a week. After a week, it should look like this:
At this point, the vinegar is ready for use. You can choose to let the beets continue steeping or strain the liquid.
For the Cara Cara orange juice reduction:
Cara Cara oranges are a variety of blood orange, notable for their sweetness. If you’re unable to obtain them, substitute regular oranges instead.
juice of one large Cara Cara orange
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
Pour the orange juice into a small skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk in the unsalted butter. Reduce the orange juice by half its volume, whisking frequently, about 3-4 minutes. When done, it should look like this:
For the beet vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon beet vinegar
2 tablespoons Cara Cara orange juice reduction
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
In a small bowl or ramekin, whisk together the beet vinegar, orange reduction and extra-virgin olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper.
For the salad:
1 cup torn frisée leaves
2 tablespoons shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
3 tablespoons finely diced cooked beets
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Gently toss the salad together. Taste for salt and pepper.
To assemble and plate:
Mound a serving portion of the salad at one edge of a large salad plate. Spoon the oysters at the other end of the plate. Drizzle the salad with the beet vinaigrette. Serve at once.
Time: About 30 minutes, not including prep time for the beet vinegar. The beets can be cooked in advance.