8 Things to Do With Almost-Rotten Produce

datum 31.01.2021 23:13 Author: Nataša Simić

I grew up in a house with a mother who would save the last half a pancake and refrigerate a tablespoon of leftover tuna salad in a Tupperware container…

And when she wasn’t looking, my dad would throw all of those odds and ends away. I somehow inherited both of these instincts: The pull (neuroses?) to declutter, and the aversion to waste of any kind. Never is this more in play than when I clean out the vegetable drawer in anticipation of a new grocery shop and uncover, say, a bunch of half-liquefied cilantro, and over the years, I’ve come up with a few recipes that salvage the produce and redeem the person who (almost) forgot about them.

Before I get to that punch list, though, I’d like to make a case for the orphaned vegetable bin, something I’ve gotten into only over the last year. It sits on the most visible shelf of my refrigerator and even if I have only two layers of a red onion or a quarter of a small eggplant, I’ll toss it in there. It’s much less likely I’ll forget about a vegetable if it’s in my line of vision (and not hiding in a produce bag in the crisper) and when the bin is filled, so many gold-spinning opportunities present themselves. Such as…

Vegetable Stock or Consommé

Since I’ve amped up plant-based cooking in my house, homemade vegetable stock is by far my most favorite use for produce on its last legs. Add carrots, onions, celery, herbs (like thyme, parsley), and mushrooms to a soup pot, cover with water, add salt, pepper, and a few plugs of olive oil and simmer for an hour or up to 3 hours. I do find that adding mushrooms makes a huge difference here in terms of depth and I taste it when they’re missing. (If you have only mushrooms, clean them, then simmer in water on the stovetop for three hours to make the most delicious vegetarian consommé.)

Vegetable Hash with an Egg or in a Quesadilla

For a weekday hot lunch or a solo dinner, I sauté onions in olive oil with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, then add whatever wilted (or not wilted) veggies I’ve got. The lunch shown way up top is finely chopped bok choy, mushrooms, red cabbage, and graffiti eggplant. Once the hash is in the bowl, I drizzle in a little soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, top with a fried egg and some chili oil. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but those same vegetables can be spread out on a tortilla, sprinkled with cheese, and fried up for a quesadilla. (Or for one of those TikTok tortillas!)

Green Sauces

If the produce in question involves leafy herbs — cilantro, parsley, basil, tarragon, dill — you can blitz them in a mini food processor with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, capers (if you have them) and drizzle the resulting green sauce on top of roast meats or vegetables, or use like pesto and dollop into a homemade salad dressing.

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