Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday surplus strategy

Being an avid eater and loving to cook is one thing. Being unable to resist buying every damn edible that looks enticing is another. And it's an increasing concern. Do they have food-shoppers anonymous meetings? Because I am ready to admit that I have a problem and I need help.

Whether I'm loitering around the cheese counter looking for handouts or nosing around Farmers Market stalls, I always end up with an overflowing basket of unquestionably delectable, but mostly impractical items. (See: recent purchases of candied rose petals, violet confit, orange flower water and honey made with flower nectar from Provence.) Can I help it that the descriptions of these products is so sublime? I may not be using my MFA in poetry these days, but allowing my senses to experience edibles like the above feels as poetic as any words I ever committed to paper.

And that being the case, I forgive myself these little food splurges. It's a pasttime that's mostly replaced my clothing binges and it's decidedly less expensive than a shoe habit. Plus, it provides infinitely more pleasure. The problem arises when I open the fridge and see an array of gorgeous food that's not being consumed at the rapid rate with which it's being purchased. Additionally, I recognize that eating this way is a pleasure, but it's also a bourgeois privilege. With so many people hungry in the world, wasting food is really unacceptable. With this in mind, I set out this morning to attack the problem.

I made a list of everything perishable or in current fridge rotation and then created a week-long menu using only these items. This way, nothing gets wasted and everything gets used. And I have to say, the process was more fun than anticipated. As a result of this little experiment, we'll be eating some unexpected, but very welcome dishes this week. And now I'll know not to buy additional food when there's more than enough to enjoy right here. I am so pleased with the outcome of this project, I think I'll institute it as a Sunday staple.

What I found:

1/2 pkg. applewood-smoked bacon
2 half-eaten containers fresh pesto
1 lb. pea greens
1 lb. brussels sprouts
1 sheet fresh pasta for ravioli
1/2 yellow onion
Leftover french green sauce with parsley and egg
2 dozen fresh eggs from a friend's hens
1 quart homemade chicken stock
Dijon mustard
English cucumber
Sprigs of fragrant lemon verbena
2 cartons heavy cream
Sprigs of sage
Arborio rice for risotto
Canallini white beans
1 lb yukon gold potatoes
1 acorn squash
2 bags pine nuts
Cheddar cheese curds
1/2 bulb garlic

What I'll make:

Check it out. This list of dishes uses every last thing on the above list, takes care of menu-planning for the week, encourages me to get creative in the kitchen, saves me from buying unnecessary food and prevents waste. Genius!

1. Acorn squash and pine nut ravioli in sage butter.
2. Pasta carbonara (uses eggs and bacon)
3. Pea green salad with canallini beans, cucumber and green sauce
4. Pesto risotto (also uses the onion)
5. Quiche with brussels sprout leaves and cheddar cheese curds
6. Roasted potatoes in garlic mustard sauce
7. Lemon verbena ice cream

Sounds good right? And it's all made by playing refrigerator surprise. Bravo, me.