Someone asked me the other day where I come up with some of my ideas; where the creativity comes from. This got me to thinking that maybe I should post my response. I have to say that a lot of what I cook has to do with conservation – I don’t want to waste food or money. And, this gives me a chance to exercise my creativity.
Here are some of my core principles for how we eat: conservation, reducing waste, best use of the foods and our money, using locally grown seasonal foods, and sharing the abundance. And, of course, it has to be tasty and (hopefully) healthy. I’ll blog a little more about sharing in another post.
I buy seasonal locally grown foods. I grow some of my own fruits and veggies, and my neighbors & friends have been sharing produce. (And, I have to say that a home grown tomato is so much better than a waxy tasteless store bought one). I like to make good use of the foods, preserving where needed. Sometimes a little creativity is all that’s needed to come up with something new. Food blogs are also a great resource. The Joy of Cooking is my favorite cookbook. I ask myself how I can use that ingredient in a tasty healthy way that’s a little different.
I’ve had lots of zucchini lately- both from my garden and from the neighbor’s garden. We’ve had our share of zucchini sautéed as a side dish or thrown into a pasta dish. But, I could hollow out the zucchini, stuff it with bread crumbs, onions, some veggies, and herbs, and bake it in the oven. Yum. Can it be dessert? Can it be preserved? I came across a recipe for zucchini martinis the other day, but I haven’t summoned up the courage to try it yet. Maybe, but until then, there are lots of other things to do with the zucchini.
Produce that’s on sale is a great indicator that it’s fresh and in season. Lately, all the stores have had berries on sale. These have been a great bargain! And, since they’re in season, they’re so much tastier! Don’t buy strawberries when they aren’t in season – there’s just no flavor in them, so why bother?
Here are some of the things I think about when faced with seasonal produce…
Grill it? Grilled butternut squash. Grilled zucchini.
Preserve it? Raspberry-lime syrup. Rosemary syrup. Raspberry jam. Lemon marmalade. Peach infused vodka. Sangria. Make a soup stock with all those veggies in the drawer of your ‘fridge, then even freeze the stock in ice cube trays to use later in pasta or rice dishes.
Freeze it? Lemon ice cream. Freeze berries for later use in smoothies. Sorbet. I take the heels of bread loaves and pulse them in the blender to make bread crumbs. I store the crumbs in the freezer until needed for zucchini fries, stuffing, or frittata.
Make it into a sauce? Green tomato and tomatillo salsa. Basil Pesto or parsley pesto. Maybe a zucchini pesto?
I’ve been reading about how much food we waste, and here are some facts of waste. It’s a sobering thought. According to an article on Change.org, “reports have estimated food waste in the U.S. to be anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of all the food produced for domestic use and consumption. The average family tosses out 14 percent of food purchased, or an estimated $600 per year.” In addition, when we throw food in the trashcan, the food goes into landfills, and it rots, emitting tons of methane, a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The resources that went into producing, shipping, and storing that food are also wasted, including water and fossil fuels. Here’s a link to 10 great tips to reduce your waste.
So, there’s the story on some of where my ideas come from. I try to get creative while doing the best I can to conserve.
This week I made Summer Garden Soup (I used zucchini, onions, and basil from the garden). It’s really quite an amazingly smooth soup – velvety and creamy without any cream! I love that it’s vegan too.
Here’s the recipe:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¾ cup onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 pounds (or one 10-inch) zucchini, coarsely chopped
- 3 cups water
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves
- Heat oil in 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add salt and garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes.
- Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add water and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids).
- Season soup with salt and pepper, and serve hot. Garnish with basil leaves or basil flowers.
- Makes 4 to 6 servings