On any given day, I can search my refrigerator and find fruits and vegetables that, only a few days before, were vibrant and beautiful. What sad fate is in store for those items, that I have passed over and ignored? Often times, they sit, tucked away in the deepest corners of the produce compartment of my refrigerator until, one day, I acknowledge the awful truth. All good things must come to an end.
But, before I throw in the towel, I like to find a way to use the fruits and vegetables that have “gone south.” I am reminded of an excerpt from Jacques Pépin’s book, “Heart & Soul in the Kitchen” entitled, ‘For the love of wilted vegetables’. Jacque is a kindred soul who, like me, hates to see anything go to waste.
Today’s example is a lime, a lemon, a jalapeño, and a wedge of onion, that have past their prime, but not past their worthiness.
I was going to make salmon today and I was pawing through the refrigerator, looking for a lemon, when I came across these sad little items. They inspired me. In fact, I tossed the idea of salmon to consider what sort of noble thing I could do with the slightly wrinkled and discolored fruit and onion.
A marinade! Yes, indeed!
The pieces came together in my head quickly. I will marinate some chicken and make chicken fajitas for dinner.
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 jalapeño, chopped
1/4 large white onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground dried onion
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp Tajin seasoning
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
Three hours later, after allowing the chicken to thoroughly marinate, dinner was served.
What can you do with your vegetables and fruit after they have gone south?
Last night I made steamed broccoli as a side dish to the main course. When I steam vegetables I strive for an even texture throughout the pieces. This is a challenge when it concerns broccoli because although the florets are fluffy and not very dense the stems are dense and thick. One solution to the problem is to cut the dense pieces into smaller sizes that will soften at the same rate as the florets. Another solution is to not include the thick stems at all.
I chose the latter option, but that didn’t mean I was going to waste perfectly good broccoli.
I rummaged around the kitchen and searched for vegetables that were on their way out. Wilted vegetables might lose their visual appeal but they still retain their nutritional value. I found some green onions that were wilted and a few potatoes that were smaller than the rest.
I rough cut the vegetables and tossed them into a pot.
I added 2 cups of chicken stock and simmered at low heat, covered, for one hour.
Once the vegetables had sufficiently softened, I poured everything into a blender and pulsed to puree.
I strained out the remaining little pieces of potato skins and was rewarded with a creamy, hearty soup.
Anything can be added to the soup at this point. Maybe some leftover sausage scraps or some lunch meat that has been relegated to the back of the meat drawer.
I chose to chop another wilted green onion for the topping and then added some dried Parmesan cheese. After a few twists from the pepper grinder, the soup was ready to eat.
I bought a large bag of Gala apples about two weeks ago and promptly put them in the crisper drawer in my refrigerator. Every time I open the refrigerator I see them and I am reminded that I need to do something with them.
Today seems like the perfect day to use them. Even though they have been kept cool and they still feel crisp, they won’t last forever. On top of that, I want something to do at home, so that I am not tempted to join the frenzied mob who are in panic mode as they rush to the store to empty the shelves of toilet paper and sanitizer.
Toilet paper, really?! If I was preparing for an emergency quarantine, toilet paper might make my it on my list of “100 things I need” but it would be pretty far down on the list. People are weird. I should know…I’m people, too.
I don’t want to make light of the situation surrounding the virus that has recently been declared a pandemic event. It’s serious business. People want to stay healthy and invisible threats, like viruses, play on our fears.
So, with that in mind, I want something to keep me occupied in the safe, confines of my home. I also want to stretch my resources to their fullest potential, which means that I don’t want to waste anything. If I wind up being confined to my home for a while, I want to be prepared and I want to be frugal.
Today is the day I will use those apples and I will use every part of them. I will save the peels to make apple chips and I will save the cores to make apple syrup. I will use the stems…ok, I won’t be using the stems but I definitely could. I could glue the stems together to make little stick-figure people and animals. Maybe next time.
Apple Filling Ingredients:
2 lb apples
1 Tbs white flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
¼ tsp salt
Set oven to 350°
Peel apples and cut into ½” pieces.
Place apple pieces in a bowl. Sprinkle with the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Mix briefly with a spatula. Add the lemon juice and toss. Spread the apple mixture across the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish.
Add all of the topping ingredients, except the melted butter, to a bowl. Mix with a spatula.
Add the melted butter and mix until all of the dry ingredients have absorbed the butter. Spread the mixture over the apples.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. This allows the apple filling to congeal.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or a glass of cold milk.
Apple Peel Chips
Apple peels from 7 or 8 apples
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl. Toss to coat the apple peels.
Spread the apple peels on a parchment paper lined baking tray.
Bake at 300° for about 15 minutes. Turn the peels over and continue backing for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the peels to cool.
The syrup produced by this recipe is very close to the color, consistency and flavor of honey. I will definitely use it as a substitution for honey in some future recipes.
Apple cores from 7 to 8 apples
½ lemon, juice and peel
1 small star anise (or 1/8 tsp anise seed)
White sugar (amount needed is described in the directions)
Add apple cores, lemon juice and lemon peel to a small saucepan. Cover with water and simmer at low heat for 1 hour.
Strain the solids and reserve the liquid. Return the liquid to the saucepan and turn heat to medium. Reduce by one half.
Carefully pour the hot liquid into a heat resistant measuring cup. Take note of how much liquid you have. You will be adding twice that amount of sugar to the pan. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add then add the sugar. I wound up with 3/4 cups of liquid so I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar.
Simmer for about 5 minutes at medium heat while whisking. When the liquid begins to bubble and froth forms, turn the heat off and remove from the pan from the heat. Test the syrup with a spoon. If the syrup clings to the back of the spoon, the syrup is done. If the syrup seems too runny, return it to the heat for another minute or two. Be careful not to overheat, unless you want to make hard candy!
Remove syrup and allow to completely cool before placing it in a storage container. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. The syrup should last for a few weeks in a refrigerator.