My mother taught me how to use a knife and prep at a young age. I started helping her in the kitchen when I was 5 or 6. I would peel potatoes, carrots and apples for her. I shelled peas and beans, chopped herbs, I stirred sauces and I coated baking pans for her cakes. She was very adamant I should not waste anything. I had to learn to scrape the flesh from the peel of an apple and to squeeze a lemon till the last drop. While I prepped, my mother would cook and bond with me. Those were precious years where I learned mothers have infinite patience, women have been working for no money in the kitchen for years, and a savvy cook must know how to use and finish everything she buys to cook for the family. Zero waste cooking, scrap cooking, frugal gourmet, it’s what thrifty and smart women have done for century. I believe the ability to use all parts of produce, reinvent leftovers, not only reheat them in to a chewy microwave blob, repurpose everyday food scraps into useful ingredients, it’s what separates a real cook from the pretender.
Since we never threw away anythings, stale bread turned in to useful bread crumbs and crunchy crostini; used vanilla pods were saved in glass jars to scent sugar and baking powder; the rendered fat from the pancetta was reserved for frying delicious potatoes; we even kept espresso grounds in an air tight container to get rid of odors and to keep ants away. I believe cooking with scraps is a must not only for the thrifty but also our obligation to our enormously abused planet.
In the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorite frugal tips and recipes here on my blog as well as in an article, soon to be published, in Reader’s Digest. Today, I’m starting with the basic.
To make my bread crumbs I keep the left overs loafs of breads out on the counter for at least a day. Once the bread is hard and stale I pulverize it in a food processor. If I’m in a rush and I don’t have stale bread I slice fresh bread and bake in the oven at 250F for 10 minutes and then pulverize it. I store the bread crumbs in air tight container for up to two months. I like to add dried herbs to the crumbs, or even grated lemon or orange peel, ground pepper, cayenne pepper or curry powder for a bit of a kick. If I add spices or herbs to the crumbs, I save them in parchment paper for up to one week. Bread crumbs are perfect for breading cutlets, to thicken soups and sauces, to soften meatballs mixes, to line molds and baking pans.
Croutons and Crostini:
Saving energy tip:
Then there is the best ever recipe for hassleback potatoes, a big favorite at my Thanksgiving table. I have attached the recipe below, it’s always a winner.