Upcycling the vegetable drawer and pantry

Posted by: Ren

Whether it be because you’ve scoured the reject bin, bought in bulk, or simply haven’t found the time to cook at home in awhile, there are ways to use up the verging-on rotten fruits in your pantry or refrigerator drawer. Below are five tips for ways to up-cycle aging foods in your kitchen:

Peach

Peach

Plums, pears, peaches, and other delicate-fleshed fruits: Everyone likes party favors. When I throw a legitimate dinner party, I like to let my guests leave with a little treat- and since a dinner party is all about eating, why not an edible treat? Two years ago I really got into making compotes– informal jams that don’t necessitate the canning process nor the addition of any gelatin. I would make fruit compotes, batches at a time, ready to give away at every opportunity. Throwing defective and bruised plums or peaches into a large pan with some sugar, water, a couple of cinnamon sticks and orange peels takes virtually no work, and almost no cost. It produces a wonderful result which your friends will also be sure to appreciate.

Tip: Excellent compote flavors include Apples + cinnamon, plum + star anise + orange peel, pear + mint + lemon rind, and peach + berries!

Avocado

Avocado

Avocados: Avocados seem to take forever to ripen when you bring them home from the store, are perfectly ripe for a couple days, and then turn to the dark side rather quickly. When I don’t have the time to use up the avocados in my pantry, it’s a sad moment in my kitchen. But rather than eating a browned, mushy avocado, I advise mixing crushed avocado with a couple of spoonfuls of essential oil, or sugar and honey, and smearing it on your face or hair for a holistic moisturizing mask. Here’s a recipe I found online for avocado beauty treatments that sound almost as edible as they are healthful!

Tip: Adding a tablespoon of white sugar into a bowl of mashed avocado serves to create a cleansing face scrub. For a mask, mix in a tablespoon of oatmeal, and leave on for 5 minutes. The oats help suck out any impurities while the avocado moisturizes!

Beet

Beet

Beets: I would certainly not recommend eating beets which are past their prime – once these root vegetables begin to go, I find they possess a dusty, dirt-y flavor that I cannot enjoy, no matter how much goat cheese I try to pair them with. My dear friend Laura once taught me how to use beets in a way that might otherwise happen unintentionally – as clothing dye. For older beets, roast and slice into large chunks, line your sink with a garbage bag, and soak your fabrics overnight for a bright red glow the next morning.

Tip: Though you might want to dye your scarf or fabric of choice, you certainly won’t want pink hands for the next few days. Find a pair of latex cloves or household gloves you won’t mind coloring, and protect your hands!

Bread

Bread

Bread: Obviously, we go to the market and to our local bakery to find the best, freshest bread available.  When I was working in Manhattan, I would run out of work on Wednesday evenings hoping to catch the vendors packing up at the Union Square Greenmarket. Bread would be the last thing I could count on finding- since most fresh loaves were snagged within the first several hours of the market opening. But sometimes, I would be lucky enough to find a loaf or two left, and no matter how long they had been sitting out, I’d quickly snatch them up. These loaves, once left out on the counter for another day or two, were the perfect starting point for the croutons, homemade breadcrumbs, and a tasty panzanella salad.

Tip: Looking for an easy crouton recipe? Cut two-day old baguette into small cubes. Season with a spice mix (I like a mix of dried parsley, dill, cayenne, oregano, and celery seed) along with salt and pepper. Toast in a toaster oven at around 135 C for 15-20 minutes or until browned. The croutons can be kept in an airtight container for several days!

Lemon

Lemon

Lemons: My friend Gillian has a blog which documents what she does with the bounty from her ever-so-prolific lemon trees in her California backyard. Though not all of us have this ‘problem’, her blog is a great resource for how to use up extra lemons.  Lemon peels are pretty hardy, so if you find lemons discarded because they are beginning to shrivel or have been half-eaten away, I would recommend giving what remains a good scrubbing before you use them. Following this recipe, dehydrate the peels and blend with salt to create a citrus spice that will be able sit on your shelf for much longer than a fresh lemon would!

Tip: Lemon citrus salt is excellent used on fish or chicken before popping into the oven for a roast, to garnish over a mozzarella and tomato salad, or to sprinkle on butter paired with raw crudites appetizers. A little goes a long way!

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