But perhaps we’ve talked enough about legume liquor for one day; what about those other tips you requested for getting the most out of your pantry? I’ve crowdsourced a few from the unbelievably talented culinary editors and test cooks I’m privileged to work with. Here’s what I turned up.
Editor Tucker Shaw has been tweeting some great ATK tips lately and here’s a few of them:
- Some cheeses you can freeze: Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, mozzarella, cheddar (even extra-sharp), brie (I know!). Blocks or wedges do better than shreds. Wrap tightly in foil or plastic, then seal into freezer bag. Up to 6 weeks. Thaw slowly in fridge.
- Broccoli stalks are delicious. Use a veg peeler to remove 1/8 inch of the tough exterior, then cut the stalk into 1/2-inch chunks. These will cook at the same rate as 1-inch florets. A lovely, crisp-tender texture.
- You can freeze lemon zest to bake into a pound cake or cookies later. The color fades but the flavor keeps most of its punch. Before you juice your lemons or cut wedges, grate the zest. If you don’t need it right away, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 3 weeks.
Test Cook Mark Huxsoll collects vegetable scraps to transform them into a flavorful veggie broth. Here’s how he laid it out for me:
- Basically, I save all of my vegetable scraps. Once a week, I slice them thinly, spread them out on an oiled, foil-lined baking sheet, and roast them at 325 degrees with a little more oil and tomato paste (if I have it) until caramelized (45 minutes to 1 hour).
- Then I put them in a Dutch oven, cover them with water, bring it all to a simmer, put on the lid, and cook it in the oven at 325 degrees for about 1 hour. I strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing all the liquid out. Finally, I reduce the liquid on the stovetop (by about half) to make a concentrate that I can store in my freezer.
- Here’s some tips I’ve learned over time for the best results: Too many brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, collards, etc.) make the broth fatty. Alliums (onion, garlic, scallion, chive, shallot, etc.) add great backbone and depth. Carrots are good for sweetness. Peels of all kinds can go in but should be washed first.
Senior Editor and Cook’s Country TV cast member Christie Morrison reminded me of this article she wrote on making the most of useful scraps in the kitchen. It’s an essential resource for helping us to mitigate food waste day to day.
Finally, yours truly wrote a bit about saving and reusing bacon grease as well as a little love song about the virtues of eating salmon skin (Did you know some people just throw it out?!). Come to think of it, a lot of foods have peels or skins that we really ought to be eating: I wash carrots rather than peel them; I eat the skins of baked russet and sweet potatoes; and you’re sadly mistaken if you think I’m throwing eggplant and cucumber peels in the compost. That’s good fiber. That’s good flavor.
Anyway, I bet I could write a series of articles on just this question, and so I want to thank you for it again. If we can find a way to squeeze every bit of nourishment out of the food we have in our homes right now, then what used to feel like being a “tightwad” starts to feel like something very different and far more meaningful. It becomes something generous, even compassionate. If saving food, stretching it as far as you possibly can, means one less trip to the store during these weeks of social distancing, then it means a whole heap of a lot more than simply saving a buck.
Take care of yourself and take care of each other.