I hate wasting food, especially produce. So, I came home from work the other day and threw together a dish with the remaining produce in my kitchen that had not yet turned moldy.
Some of us have a hard time cooking without a recipe in the kitchen and some of us have a hard time cooking with a recipe in the kitchen. I prefer to cook without. I’m quite certain I can thank my mother for that, who is a gourmet cooking instructor. Now, in no way am I equating myself to her level of expertise (my sisters are scoffing right now), but I like to think she rubbed off on me a little.
Here’s how I avoided wasting eggplant, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, onions, green peppers, zucchini, bread and fresh mozzarella (that was quickly becoming not-so-fresh).
Stab a spaghetti squash as many times as you can handle and then throw it in the oven at 350/400 degrees for about a half an hour. Cooking times will vary if you have an oven that was created after 1950. I don’t.
While I do love this oven because without it I wouldn’t have one, I don’t think it loves me back. If I want the oven to heat to 400 degrees, I have to set it at 475. If I want to bake something, I have to presume that the treat will turn out soggy in the middle, regardless of how long it’s baked. Hence the reason why I did not post the vegan pumpkin bars I made the other day. Boo.
Back to the topic at hand…
I chopped an onion, two large tomatoes and a baby yellow tomato, as well as two baby eggplants and three baby green peppers and threw them into a heated pan with a little olive oil. I then watched the brawl that was going down in my kitchen.
What kind of doggie playdate host am I for letting King sit on Bru’s head? Ehhh. I’m sure we all can recall a few times when we weren’t exactly “cordial” while playing with our best friends. I know I can. Post brawl, my veggies were sauteing nicely.
I added two heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic, as well as a spoonful of organic tomato paste to enhance the flavor. It was time to throw a lid over the mixture and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Don’t worry if your lid doesn’t fit. Things will still work out in the end. I promise.
While my veggie stew was simmering away, I made some zucchini pasta (Emily @ The Front Burner has a great post outlining the process). For those of you who are unfamiliar with zucchini pasta, it’s easy and quite delicious. Simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the zucchini until you reach the seeds. You don’t want to cut into the seeds, as they will ruin the flow of the “pasta.” So as not to be wasteful (as I was by throwing zucchini peels onto the floor), I chopped up the zucchini core and threw it into the stew.
By now your spaghetti squash should be cooked through. If it’s too hot to handle (ahem, like Miguel), then throw it in the freezer for a bit until you’re able to cut it open and remove the contents.
Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite foods. It has so much flavor and offers a lot in the way of cooking variety. If you’re unfamiliar with how to get to the yummy center of a spaghetti squash, read on :).
Take a sharp knife and cut into the squash skin. Cut it in half, lengthwise. You should be able to do this quite simply, as the squash should be fairly soft to the touch, since it’s been baked. Once it’s been halved, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Once all the seeds are removed, use a spoon or fork and run it along the flesh of the squash to remove the “meat” in shreds.
While my veggies were still stewing and my squash and zucchini were settled, I boiled a cup of quinoa to add to my dish. I also decided it’d be a good idea to use the last slice and a half of Wild Flour Bakery bread that I bought from the Headhouse Farmers’ Market about two months ago. Don’t worry, I had it in the freezer :). This bread was so delicious and froze wonderfully.
I blended the bread in this mini cuisinart food processor that works like a charm. It used to be my grandmother’s. Isn’t it amazing how older products last longer?
I also shredded the last half of a mozzarella ball I picked up at a farm stand with my best friend Laura this past weekend. An aside here — I’m starting my 8 week beginner yoga class with Laura tomorrow morning. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. I’m so excited!
All the ingredients lined up:
Bru couldn’t resist a sniff.
More play brawling, just because they’re cute. And fun. And make me smile. And hurt my feet when they step on my toes.
Because I had just recently made a tomato sauce and several soups, I wanted to be a tad more creative with this concoction. I’m sure we all have a lot of tomatoes left over from the end of the season, and this is how I chose to utilize mine.
I mixed the cooked quinoa with several spices: a little sea salt and ground pepper, garlic, onion, turmeric (a tiny bit) and dried parsley. I then used it to layer the bottom of my pan. Next, I added half my veggie stew.
I then added the layer of zucchini pasta, followed by the spaghetti squash. The rest of the veggie stew was layered onto the squash and topped with the bread crumb & mozzerella mixture, to which I added olive oil, sea salt and pepper and basil to taste.
Bru just can’t get enough!
The finished product prior to being committed to the oven. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture when it was done! What kind of blogger am I? This turned out to be a delicious dish that I have eaten for lunch for several days, and will freeze for dinners. Now that I’m in graduate school, it’s a must for me to cook larger batches of fresh, healthy food, so I when open the fridge/freezer, I have enticing meals to choose from. I’m also thinking about adding it to my mother’s Thanksgiving day menu as my submission. My vegetarian sister would be so thrilled that she’d probably force me to make more for her to bring back to NYC. We love leftovers. Even if we have to threaten each other to get them.
My meat-eating sister? Not so happy. Sort of like when Anthro is closed on a cold, winter’s night.
- No workout equipment? No problem! My friend Megan and I improvised and we took pictures as proof 😉
- Snacks on-the-go: grad school style
- The common American diet: Megan let’s me “clean” up a day of her meals
Question: What are your go-to recipes when trying to use up the last bits of produce & extras in your kitchen?
simply fit. simply clean. simply happy.