Turning Food Waste into Abundance


On my cookbook shelf sits a copy of a Key Peninsula Civic Center community cookbook from 1977. It is spiral-bound with plastic, and just a look at the sans serif font feels like an immediate throwback to a different time. Published by Circulation Service Inc., it was like many of its kind across the country: a collection of community recipes put together in book format to raise money. There are the many recipes offered up by former (and current) KP names who you would certainly recognize. My mother found the cookbook stashed on a shelf and gave it to me; it was probably given to her by my Great Aunt Audrey Tritle. I am as drawn to the personal recipes as I am to the generic guides sprinkled throughout the book. Some feel a little outdated, like “Quantities to Serve 100 People” (3 pounds of coffee apparently) and the calorie count you should aim for depending on your ideal weight, which is right after the double page spread on how to bake a perfect pie. As I think of the many generations who have cooked and baked on this peninsula, and the stories behind them, I find the page devoted to leftovers. “If it’s good food, don’t throw it out.” Simple advice really, and one we might take inspiration from. Food waste is a global problem that spans the supply chain, much of it out of our control. But we do have control of what takes place in our kitchens. When it comes to food “waste,” what we throw out (or in an ideal world, compost), is usually considered waste mostly because we didn’t figure out a good way to repurpose it. Waste is only waste when we lack a little creative thinking. Think of all the opportunities to prolong the life of your food and turn waste into abundance. Dry bread becomes French toast or bread pudding, sour milk can be used in a cake, leftover rice turned into fried rice, vegetable scraps turned into stock. Citrus peels can be dehydrated or added to vinegar for a DIY cleaner. Leftover fruit and vinegar can be used to make a shrub (sweet syrup) for drinks or even infused in alcohol for something stronger. In a moment when we are hunkered down at home, perhaps with a little more time and a little more consideration for how to stretch the grocery budget, this just might be the time to start to focus on turning waste into abundance. Using up leftovers is the obvious start, but after that, what in our kitchens could we put to better use? There are many answers to that question, but I wanted to offer you a simple “scrap” recipe that I make regularly, in the hope that it inspires you to think about how you might make your kitchen feel just a little more abundant, and certainly resourceful.


Scrappy Pesto

Carrot tops, beet greens, radish greens, kale, mint, parsley — you can make pesto from essentially any green. I traditionally make this recipe with a big bunch of carrot tops and then add in a few other greens for good measure, like a little mint and parsley. But it can be adapted to whatever greens you have on hand. It’s also a good way to use up greens that have gotten a little sad and wilted. I usually make this pesto a bit thicker than usual, and use it as a spread on sandwiches. It also makes a great base for salad dressing. About 2 to 3 cups assorted greens, lightly packed About ½ cup seeds or nuts (sunflower seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.). Toast them first for a little more flavor. 2 to 3 garlic cloves About ½ cup olive oil Juice of a small lemon, or a bit of preserved lemon Salt and pepper Any other spice you want (cumin, coriander seeds, red chili pepper flakes) Optional: A bit of parmesan or dried hunk of cheese you found at the back of the fridge. Place the greens, seeds or nuts, and garlic in a food processor and mix until everything is finely chopped. If you’re using cheese, add it in here. Scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula to get everything evenly chopped. Put the lid back on an add lemon juice and olive oil until the pesto comes together to your desired consistency. Add in spices, taste, and adjust accordingly.