A Week Without Waste: Day One

Who feels me? You go to the grocery store and buy a huge lot of groceries with all good intentions. Cilantro for those black beans you intend on making, swiss chard and sprouts for that healthy green drink that will start off your week, beef, chicken, and pork because, well... you're not sure what you'll want two days from now. A week later, you're hauling half of it to the garbage bin. Herbs are my specialty. I am really good at wasting the herbs. Cilantro is by far my favourite. I'll use 5 stems and the rest will turn into a yellow gooey mess on the bottom of my crisper.
Wasting food. Americans are the best at it. If I were homeless and starving, I'd camp out behind a Cheesecake Factory and get fat off all the leftovers. Have you seen the portions there? The trash at closing must look like a buffet.
For the last 6 months or so, I've been repenting for that lone shopping spree in Costco last summer. The beef, the turkey and ham slices, the bratwurst, oh Lord the bratwurst!!  I've been diligently "cleaning" out my freezer, trying to utilize every frozen chicken breast while trying not to think about the antibiotics I was most likely eating.  I made my bed, so....

Well, the last of the Costco spree is gone, so this weekend, I took my first REAL trip to the Farmers Market this year.  Real, I say, because none of the meals I would make would be supplemented by bulk anything.  I was also determined to make a little go a long way.  Everyone says how expensive Farmers Markets can be, so I decided to put myself on a budget.  $60 and no more.  Any leftovers could be used at Whole Foods for the stuff the market didn't have. 

So I took to the streets with a recycleable bag and three twenties.  Here's what ended up in my bag:

mustard greens
romaine leaves
acorn squash
red potatoes
yukon gold potatoes
pink lady apples
spring onions
ground buffalo

I only spent $40 at the market, so I used the rest at whole foods and The Wharf to pick up some duck, flounder and salmon.

So where to start?  Admittedly, I love duck for it's novelty and richness quality, so I started with that.  I prepared a teriyaki duck that I served over sticky rice with a side of mustard greens that was pretty good, but I'll have to revisit that recipe, as it didn't quite do it for me.  I mean, the duck was delicious, but the sticky rice added nothing so wasn't the best compliment.  I had some duck leftover, about 1oz, so decided to pair it with a lovely squash soup.  Because, well frankly, I don't know what else to do with acorn squash.

My friend Lily Valle (isn't that a fabulous name?) always tells me I need more pics on here.  I have to agree, but it's very difficult handling a wooden spoon AND a Nikon D60.  Let's not even discuss the steam that interrupts the photos.  Believe it or not, I am cooking these dishes to nourish my body as well as your interest.  So I grabbed my camera before I started cooking, all for y'all!  And, of course, for Lily.

So, I was kind of convinced that pureed squash, onions, and a dash of cream wouldn't cut it for my soup, so I did a little digging to see how others used acorn.  I settled on a recipe from Emeril and rearranged it a bit to satisfy my tastes.  I got out all the ingredients I would need and started to prep.  Of course, for the full effect, I needed a bit of Scarlatti and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  If you're noticing the icecubes in my glass, don't judge me.  1. It's a Sauvignon and I had no intention of pairing it with the soup, it was for prep purposes only and 2. I didn't use the cooling bath at the store. 

I had boiled my acorn squash earlier that day to get the skin off, so that was done.  Emeril suggests roasting it, so I was a little peeved that I'd looked up this recipe after I'd boiled the squash, but whatever.  I chopped the carrots, shallots, and apple and tossed it all in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until soft.  I then added the squash, ginger and vegetable broth, seasoned with a little sea salt and allspice and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. 

While that was going, I reheated the duck until the skin was crispy and sliced it up in preparation for the soups garnish.  Don't you love how I am using meat as a garnish?  How totally Michael Pollan of me.  I took the squash off of the heat and into the blender it went.  Then back into the soup pot to keep warm.  I have to say, it came out pretty well.  I sprinkled a bit of spring onion over the top, but if I had to do it again, I'd sprinkle a bit of granny apple instead.  A little sweeter to compliment the duck.  Since this week is all about waste not, want not, I decided to put to use the half apple that wasn't used and the extra carrot I had.  I had chopped a bit too much ginger, so I would recycle that too. 

My leftover bonus?  A lovely carrot apple concoction for breakfast.



The Grand Balloon

OK, so last night I had a "boys night" and went to a whiskey tasting in downtown DC. Just me, a room full of men and Johnnie Walker. Sounds like a good time, right?
By the end of the night I was almost in stitches, I was laughing so hard.

When I was about 7 years old, I made my parents take me to this seminar way out in Virginia because they said they were giving away Grand Pianos. I played the guitar, but I wanted a piano so badly I could taste it and if someone was willing to give one to me, no questions asked, I was prepared to collect, by any means necessary. So off we went to claim my baby grand and bless my parents for not bursting my bubble right then and there. Even though it didn't occur to me to contemplate how we would get this massive piano back to DC in our Volvo. Details, details... I was already envisioning myself in the living room like a little black Mozartette with my eyes closed and my fingers running passionately over the ebony and ivory keys. A dramatic inhale with every momentous note.

So we get out to Whateversville, Wherever and I'm totally confused because I don't see a grand piano in sight. Not one. We are greeted by a staff member of whatever seminar we were attending and she explains that the lecture will begin in 10 minutes and we were welcome to take a seat until showtime. My parents gave each other knowing looks, while I was growing more and more alarmed. This was not part of the deal. All I wanted was to pick up my damn piano and roll out. So we took our seats and the video started.

Two and a half hours later, we sat there still as the lights came up, the presenters eager for our response. This was a chance of a lifetime, they said. Purchasing a trailer/camper was the way to go! Just think, family vacations riding across country with all the comforts of home. My little face was as red as it was going to get, I was so frustrated. What about my grand piano???

So I piped up. "Where's the piano you promised??"

"Oh you'll get that when you leave, darlin'"

So out we rode, on the way back to DC. When we exited the parking lot, we stopped at a little vestibule with a man inside. He handed my father a large box with a small synthesizer piano inside. The synthesizer was made by a company called "Grand". It was my first lesson in Bamboozle 101.
But here I was again. I'd worked my way up to Bamboozled 401, the senior course that required the completion of 101,201, and 301 before you could enroll. This time, the grand piano at the end of the night was a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue. I sat through the spiel and watched the romanticized videos long enough to make you book a ticket to Edinburgh and be done with it. All for what? A snifter of Blue Label and two rowdy boys on either side of me. I started to chuckle when I realized that I was back in Whateversville, Wherever and I was holding my baby grand in a glass.

Nothing for nothing, my pops would say.

Though I did find that I liked Green Label more than Black and I'd definitely pick up a bottle the next time I decided on steak frites for dinner (recipe and photos to follow). I'm sure it would pair wonderfully with haggis, but I'm just not there yet.