Thursday, March 10, 2011

Waste not... How to get the most out of your produce

I was inspired, today, by a couple of wrinkly, sad-looking red peppers sitting in my fridge.  Being an impulsive pepper-purchaser, I had just brought two new ones home from the store, but I didn't want to see the not-so-fresh ones go to waste!  Statistics show that about 40% of all food grown and produced in the United States is thrown away.  As in, wasted.  Surprising?  Next time you clean out your refrigerator to make room for new groceries, take a good look at how much you end up throwing out and you will be surprised no more.  We are, all of us, guilty of either buying too much at one time or another.

The good news is, when you start paying attention to creating a minimal-waste environment in your home, you might find that you'll save a lot of money!  No matter who you are or how much time you have, there are most certainly ways for you to cut down on your waste, and here are a few I'd like to share:


Lately, I've been buying Meyer Lemons like they're going out of style!  Meyers are one of my favorite winter fruits because they are incredibly useful and have the most delightful flavor.  However, if you use lemons in a recipe you might find that often times, you tend not to use the whole fruit.  Sometimes you just need the zest, sometimes just the juice, or sometimes only half a fruit.  Here are some things I like to do with the remnants:

1.  Leftover Juice:

- Store it:  Once you've grated all the zest you need off the lemon, squeeze the juice (straining the seeds, of course) into a tupperware or glass jar and keep it in the fridge.  If you won't be using lemon juice that week (although I can't imagine going a week without using lemon juice...) stick it in the freezer and keep it as long as you like!
- Slice it up:  After zesting the fruit, slice the rest of the lemon into thin rounds and put in a small tupperware.  Throw a slice in while you are brewing tea, or squeeze it in a glass of water.  Delicious!

2.  Leftover Rind or Zest:

- Store it:  I have been trying to drink more mate and tea (as opposed to coffee) lately, and I love throwing a little leftover lemon rind in the cup as it brews, adding a hint of lemony goodness to each sip.

- Dry it out:  if you ever have a recipe that just calls for fresh lemon juice, always zest the lemon first.  Not only does this make it easier to squeeze, but you can air-dry the zest and keep it in a closed container to use the next time you need it.


How many of us have bought peppers, only to subject them to a slow, shriveling death in the fridge?  I tend to buy peppers impulsively and with reckless abandon, so this has happened to me before.  Luckily there are a few ways to make your peppers last if they are about to go bad!  Use these tips when you see those wrinkles start to form:

1.  Roast 'em!  There are a number of ways to do this, most of which are entirely acceptable.  The goal is to get the skin a little blackened, allow to cool, then peel away the skin to reveal that marvelous-tasting pepper flesh.  You can blacken them by grilling, roasting, pan-roasting, foil-roasting, or even scorching them over an open flame (if you have a gas stove, that is).  Just make sure you use high heat to acheive the blackened effect, otherwise they will be very difficult to peel and won't have the same lovely flavor.

2.  Freeze:  Once you've roasted the peppers, add a little vegetable stock (or water) and puree in a blender or food processor.  You can use pureed peppers for a million different things, including dressing, soup, hummus, pepper pesto, and tomato sauce.  Once frozen, pepper puree will stay good for quite a while.

3.  Preserve them:  Roasted peppers will basically last forever if you have the equipment necessary to jar and preserve them.  I also found a fantastic article from UC Davis that will give you more information on preserving and storing peppers than you could possibly need to know!

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