Waste Not 1

food

This morning I stumbled upon an article from one of my favorite bloggers and influencers, Trash is for Tossers. Lauren Singer is an activist working towards a more sustainable, waste-free future. She published this article about cooking with kitchen scraps, which not only reduces food waste, but also can help save money. Not to mention, cooking for one is more difficult than cooking for many, and if you’re anything like me you make all your meals at home. You’re often left with leftovers that sometimes you don’t want to eat, or fruit that you can’t seem to enjoy quickly enough.

In my first effort to use what I have and waste not, I decided to try out the second tip on Lauren’s list, “use greens like herbs.” When I went home, my mom graciously paid for my groceries (thanks, mom). This was on September 15, it is now September 25 and I’m still going strong on the basics I had and her contributions. She bought me this big bulb of fennel with beautiful mint green stalks. The bulb sat in my fridge untouched until now. I thought about how much the bulb cost by weight and I thought about how it would both waste money and food if I threw out the stalks and delicate dill-like leaves.

I decided to make fennel pesto. In a blender (which was not the most effective tool) I combined the leafy bits, four cloves of garlic, a hunk of pecorino and olive oil. I let it go for a bit, scraping down as necessary until it was some-what saucy. While I wouldn’t put it on pasta, I would definitely use it as a condiment or marinade, which brings me to my next point.

While at the grocery store I also bought some meat because it was on sale and it can last a long time if packaged and kept in the freezer. However, I always convince myself that I’ll freeze something and then I never unearth it from the cold for months because I just forget. Instead of buying more food and contributing more waste, I’m checking my freezer regularly to see what I have before making more unnecessary purchases. I have some pork chops that would go nicely with a fennel marinade. I recall during my Italian cooking class my professor mentioned the sweet harmony between pork and fennel. Plus, I can roast the stalks and an onion and make a very fragrant one pan meal.

While I bemoan leftovers, it makes lunch quite easy. The microwave at work makes leftovers basically only edible at work since I myself don’t have a microwave at home. Additionally, when I forget lunch it comes with a price. Lunch places nearby tend to be on the pricy side, and for good reason. They’re all delicious, but it just doesn’t make sense when I can bring food from home.

While some items definitely have to become waste (egg shells) some don’t have to be (“discarded greens”). Inedible vegetable sections can be used to flavor stock. Overripe fruit can be boiled and turned into compote. There are a million creative ways to transform “garbage.”

Additionally, I could be better about what I buy when I go shopping. From this point on I’m writing down items that I finished completely (1 loaf of bread stored in the freezer until needed, 1 bunch of radishes, 3 apples, you get the idea). This will reference the portion that I should buy instead of what I used to buy or might be tempted to buy. This opened my eyes to the wasteful ways of the grocery store: massive bags of kale and lettuce line the shelves and while the plastic bag is waste enough, one person could never eat that amount before the leaves turn.

Stay tuned for more “waste not” stories. I’ll be using articles like this to guide me so send me suggestions. I hope to document how much waste I reduce and how much money I spend on each grocery trip. Plus, maybe a recipe or two will come out.

Get Lost in the Sauce

food

There’s a maintenance man at work who always enthusiastically tells me about his tomato sauce. It started because my name, Marcella, is literally so Italian it becomes synonymous with pizza and pasta to most people. Besides that, I love that this sweet guy tells me when he makes sauce and asks for help when he needs to improve it. I’ve opened him up to simmering to thicken and adding a bay leaf to reduce acidity (you’re welcome, by the way) and he can’t believe his results. It’s very sweet.

That being said, I thought I would try to actually follow a sauce recipe for the first time in my life. As an Italian woman you’re born with an innate knowledge of how to make sauce exactly how you like it. So why a recipe? Bon Appetit’s Basically is doing 10 recipes in 10 weeks, the first one being sauce. I was going to make something else for dinner but plans change and I had all the ingredients sorta. I used passata instead of peeled tomatoes and pecorino romano instead of parm (because money) but everything else remained true. The garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh basil were pretty routine, but it was the technique at the end that transformed this from good to great. Cooking the pasta below al dente, saving some pasta water and finish cooking the spaghetti in the simmering sauce with butter really made this a home run AND that’s something you can do with any pasta.

The other thing that really made this pop was the amount of salt I added to the pasta water. Add so much salt that you feel bad about it because as Samin Nosrat says in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat most of that salt will go down the drain with the extra water, but a lot of salt is needed for the noodles to absorb flavor. Salt isn’t a spice, it’s an essential mineral that when used will enhance the flavor and texture of your dishes. Don’t oversalt, but start to build your flavors and enhance what’s there by using salt.

Really what I learned is that technique can be everything, and technique can be simple for the home cook. Sure, maybe 5 star french pastries won’t be coming out of your kitchen any time soon, but damn good pasta will be minutes away every night.

Firsts

lifestyle

Hey folks and fans. It’s been a minute, but I finally have wifi in my FIRST APARTMENT. That’s right. I moved two weeks ago into a real fixer upper of a one bedroom apartment. I started with low expectations of both myself and the space, but after two weeks of a little bit of work each day it’s coming together. Of course, I couldn’t do it without help from friends and family, specifically my mom, Dave (my mom’s boyfriend) and Nick (my boyfriend). You can see some of my projects, additions and adventures (when I remember to post) on Instagram @picturemarcella.

Along with the FIRST apartment comes my FIRST electrical bills, FIRST internet bills and FIRST furniture purchases, which have all been their own unique version of exciting. That really sums up my FIRST apartment. It’s hard work, and you need to be a bit of a pain in the ass to get things done (ie. get your landlord to fix your sink) BUT it’s all part of the life lessons that come with being in your early 20’s. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, right?

My next FIRST is having my FIRST article published at my current job. I had the opportunity to drink beer on a boat and I wrote all about it here. I work in marketing, but once in a while a fun assignment will pop up with my name all over it (look out for the hard cider pairing chart coming out soon). Food has always been a passion, and I’ve had a knack for writing since I was published in my town’s local newspaper at age 11 (for a sports story, imagine that). I never imagined that I would be so heavily associated with the beer scene in the Hudson Valley, but since my sample article for my job application was about the local hiking & beer scene, it’s been my claim to fame around the office. I’ve got no problems with it.

I absolutely love my job. I come into work every day ready to put my best foot forward and contribute to the local farm, food and beverage scene. It inspires me to read about, write about and experience the food and drink cultures around me. I want to somehow do it all and I’m not sure where to start: wine, beer, meat, cheese, agriculture—there’s so much involved! Since I’ve been plowing through books (currently on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat—amazing, btw) please let me know if there are any smart reads on any of the above subjects. What are the holy texts of food? Contribute to my list of FIRSTS, give me some tips!

Treasures

Personal

 

I’ve kept journals for as long as I can remember. I definitely destroyed the ones from middle school/early high school, but these are the five I have in tact from the most recent years. Some span a few years, some span one summer, some span a few months, but all are great recounts of my emotions throughout these really formative years of my life.

 

This journal contains my thoughts from my senior year of high school all the way until right before I left for Florence. It spans two relationships and includes my transition from high school to college. In the back I have letters from friends and important mementos from those years. It ends abruptly, approximately 4 days before I boarded my flight to Europe.

 

 

This journal was given to me by my then boss right before I left for my first year of college. This was fun because it was guided and has pages containing everything I ate in a day and what I spent my money on as well. It also has lists of songs I liked, countdowns until fun events during that summer, and descriptions of new vegetables and fruits that I learned about on the farm.

 

 

 

Ah, my favorite. I wrote in this every day for 4 months during my semester abroad. It is FAT with business cards, tickets, and other mementos from the various countries and cities I visited. My roommate and I made sure that we both wrote on every night of our journey, and it resulted in the best souvenir that I have from those 4 months.

 

 

 

I bought this journal from Tiger, a store on my street in Florence. This wasn’t so much of a journal as it is an artistic account of my time in Florence and my interests now. I have watercolor paintings, calligraphy trials, and short stories in these pages. I continue to fill it whenever I can. I absolutely love keeping this one around.

 

 

Finally, this is my most current journal. I started this last summer after I returned from Florence. It has the thoughts about my adjustment back to America, as well as my senior year of college. Senior year was a doozy and unfortunately I couldn’t write in this every day, but I made sure to recap as best as I could even if it was weeks later. Yes, the beer stickers are upside down.

 

 

Keeping these has been the best decision of my young life (probably). Not only because I can see how I felt during different milestones in my life, but also because I can accurately accrue information about places and topics. I can refer people to certain places in Florence or Europe based on my abroad journal, or I can figure out what I was baking three summers ago based on my farm journal. I encourage anyone, especially young writers, to keep journals. Your future self will thank your past self for doing it.