Nothing drives me crazier in the kitchen than waste. Time, food, supplies, equipment, space, funds -- any of those things wasted is waste. Not that I think something can’t be learned from burning muffins, overcooking pasta, dropping chicken on the floor, walking back to dry storage 10 times to get 10 things, allowing something to spoil on a disorganized workspace, or destroying a beautiful Staub cast iron tea pot because it was left on the stove burner too long unattended (that was me). Even when I’m pleased to witness the learning waste can provide, I cry just a little bit inside every time something of value is tossed in the trash.
The same philosophy is true of my home kitchen. Preferring to buy groceries as fresh and in season as possible, I try to only buy what I need when I need it. To that end, I don’t regularly stock much except a fair amount of condiments and farm eggs. (When I'm 86'd eggs, there are real troubles on the home front.)
While the lean fridge inventory lends itself to less waste, even I don’t get through all the fresh stuff before it turns. Those bits of food left over -- you know what I’m talking about. The inside stalks of yellowing celery. Limping carrots. A hunk of bell pepper. Wilting spinach. Dying herbs. A half cup of miso soup you couldn’t bring yourself to throw out even though its quantity wouldn’t qualify for snack status (that was also me).
I’ve been teaching my staff about waste awareness lately, and its been on my brain at home as well. So instead of throwing out my scraps of almost lost food, I made two meals this week comprised of the “seconds”. One used my standard eggs, one used the miso soup. Both involved roasting or sauteing veggies, which are effective ways to resuscitate produce. Both were light, nutritious and full of flavor. Both gratified in ways that were delightfully unexpected.
Are these the best meals I’ve eaten in my tenure as a chef? Probably not. But… maybe they are. The satisfaction of turning waste into nourishment was more delicious than I could imagine.
Baked eggs with celery, carrots and dill
Trim all veggies of any decay or severely limp bits. I used carrot and celery here, but whatever you have will work. (Though I gotta tell you, roasting celery levels up its flavor game. So good.)
Cut up the veggies in size and shape of your choice -- try to keep veggies cut in the same sizes for uniform cooking.
Toss veggies in with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a high heat oven (450 degrees is probably good) until slightly caramelized or browned on the outside but not mushy on the inside. You still want the veggies to have some tooth, some crunch to them. Not raw, but not over cooked.
Toss the veggies with chopped herbs (I used dill - I looooooove dill) and a little lemon juice or vinegar if you want some brightness. I used apple cider vinegar. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and adjust seasoning. I tend to have a heavy hand with black pepper, but do as you like. Set aside while ya bake your eggs.
Turn the oven down to 350. Lightly coat a small oven/heatproof bowl or ramekin with olive oil. Crack two eggs into the bowl and season with salt and black pepper. Bake the eggs until desired consistency. I go until just past over easy -- the whites barely starting to brown around the edges and the yolk starting to set but still runny in the middle.
- Stack the veggies on top of the eggs. Mash it all up so the yolks get mixed in the veg and the egg whites get chopped up in the bowl. Say yum.
Peppers, spinach and miso broth
Cut the peppers (again you can use what ever veggies you have, but I had peppers) into medium diced pieces. Saute with a bit of oil (olive, grapeseed, whatever have you) on the stovetop over medium high heat until they start to soften and slightly caramelize.
Add a small minced clove of garlic. Toss to incorporate and cook a little of the rawness out of the garlic - maybe 30 seconds?
Add chopped spinach and saute until it starts to wilt down, a minute or two.
Pour the miso broth (I used about ½ cup) over the peppers and spinach - it’ll bubble a bit when you pour it in the pan. That’s a good thing. If there is tofu left in the miso broth, add that too. Why the heck not?
Cook the peppers and spinach with the miso broth until it is heated through and reduces slightly. It shouldn’t be like a soup but it also shouldn’t be totally reduced to dry.
Adjust seasoning - miso is salty, so taste it first before adding salt to finish. Maybe a splash of rice vinegar to brighten or a few dabs of hot sauce to spice.
Sit on couch. Read Sunday NY Times. Eat wasted vegetables with miso broth.