Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Seven Emotions of Wasting Food

Throwing out uneaten food prompts waves of emotions for The Jersey Girl.

Guilt: Well, with the Italian-Catholic thing I have going on, that's a given. Let's be real, I feel guilty about everything, including that package of mushrooms dying in my refrigerator. But I'm not feeling too bad about my next glass of wine.

Denial: These four quarts of decaying strawberries, 3 gallons of expired milk and disgusting package of Perdue chicken nuggets that I would only feed my kid if hell froze over are not really here. 

Stress: The starving kids in the world, the waste of money. God, how did I let this happen?!?

Buyer's Remorse: I am never ever ever getting suckered into buying this much shredded cheese on sale ever again. Ever. Ever.

Anger: I cooked this slop, and no one ate it. Damn you, people. I'm so moving to Paris and NEVER coming back. See who feeds you ungrateful fools then.

Relief: I mean, honestly. I've been looking at this Tupperware container of uneaten soup for a week now. Good riddance.

Joy: Yay! My refrigerator is all clean and there's open space for my culinary delights.

The End.

Until it happens again next week.

A drama queen I am not, but am I the only gal out there who vows each week to stop wasting food? Between feeding a bottomless pit of a toddler and a very hungry husband, let's just say the Jersey Girl can be a bit overzealous when food shopping. But sometimes all the planning in the world just leads to more food getting ditched. Especially when your kid ate a banana every day last week, but is now currently practicing a banana hunger strike.

That's why a recipe like Greek Panzanella is SUCH a keeper. For one thing it's a Barefoot Contessa number, so you know it's good. And it lets me use up the stale bread cluttering up my cupboard, which is pretty much a given in mia cucina. The veggies are staples in my produce bin: Cucumbers, bell peppers, grape tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients are always on hand except olives because The Husband does not dig olives. Eyeroll.

But the moral of the story is: It's a grand plan to have some recipes that use up the goods you got when you got em so that you're not chucking decaying matter from your refrigerator or pantry while going through the wasting-food-spiral-of-emotions. It's a preventative measure if you will.

The flavors of this dish are a great reminder that spring and summer are just around the corner.


Greek Panzanella
From "Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?"
By Ina Garten
Serves 6

3/4 cup good olive oil, divided
6 cups (1-inch) diced rustic bread
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 pound good feta cheese, 3/4-inch-diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan until hot. Add the bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside.

Place the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl and toss together.

For the vinaigrette, place the vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Whisking constantly, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil to make an emulsion.

Add the feta, olives, and bread to the vegetables in the bowl, add the vinaigrette and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.

Please note: The Jersey Girl used red pepper only and she omitted the olives.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Move Over Takeout

I live in Hammonton, New Jersey. And that pretty much means you can't turn a corner without running into a relative, a blueberry or a pizza shop. Oh, and salons (nail, hair and tanning, natch.)

That's because in this town we're all cousins, we rock the moniker "Blueberry Capital of the World," and there's a whole lot of Italians up in here - who really need to have their nail, hair and tans did at all times.

Despite these cold hard facts, The Jersey Girl loves - and I do mean LOVE LOVES - making homemade pizza. And I've never donned an acrylic nail, (SHUDDERS), or a fake tan (SUPER DUPER SHUDDERS) or dyed my hair. OK. That one's just luck. I'm enjoying these last few months of 37 without ONE gray hair on my head. Thank you, Jesus.

For my last pizza go-around, I pulled a Giada: Arugula Pesto, Ricotta and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza. Not only does it taste magnificent, it looks quite pretty, too. The arugula cheesy topping is a vibrant shade of green while fresh plump tomato slices provide bursts of glorious red. It is the color I SO need during these winter months of cold snowy grayness. Eeck!

The Husband devoured my pizza. And he even ate the leftovers, too. That's when you know you gotta keeper.

My little guy, well he'll take a slice from down the street. Whaddayagonnado?

Arugula Pesto, Ricotta and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza
From "Weeknights with Giada"
By Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4 to 6

Cornmeal, for dusting
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
1 packed cup (1 ounce) arugula
Flour, for dusting
1 (1-pound) ball store-bought pizza dough
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

Place and oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle a heavy baking sheet (without sides) with cornmeal.

In a food processor, blend the ricotta, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth. Add the smoked mozzarella and arugula. Pulse until just combined but still chunky.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 14-inch circle, 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Spread the ricotta mixture on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the tomato slices on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 15 to 16 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cut into wedges and serve.

Please note: The Jersey Girl shaped her pizza dough into a a rectangle instead of a circle. In addition, she prepared her baking sheet with a light coating of olive oil instead of cornmeal to prevent sticking. She also used a 1/2 tsp. salt when making the arugula cheese mixture. An extra tomato or two may be needed to accommodate the rectangular shape of the pizza.