My mother taught me to bake. But everything I know about cooking I learned from my husband. Five years ago, he won my heart through my stomach.
Cristiano Bonino is northern Italian, born and raised. Making a good thing even better, he’s a card-carrying Slow Foodie, extremely conscious of food origin (terroir), sustainability, humane husbandry, and food waste.
Wednesday was World Environment Day. Folks like Jonathan Bloom and ventures like Treehugger and Food Tank underscored to the Twitter-reading public that our nation’s food waste volume is generally accepted at 40% of total production. (That is insane.)
Infographics and thought pieces on the food waste crisis unpacked some of the abominable side effects of America’s food waste on climate change, energy use, and sustainable communities.
Eater-entrepreneurs can only operate in bite-sized pieces. So the following List explores some age-old ways Cristiano taught me to use and reuse precious edibles.
From my husband’s kitchen to yours…
1. Juicing roughage: Avoid wasting fruit and veggie fibers from juicing.
“For people with a juicer,” says Cristiano, “the idea that all the solid parts, the fibers, are left behind is something I don’t like. These could easily be added when making a soup. Or, cook them for a wonderful frittata.”
Or, if you’re like me, just blend everything. Give your gut flora a fiesta.
2. DIY Food: Do-It-Yourself Food relies on the common-sense notion that if you grow it yourself, you’ll appreciate it more. (I’m talking to an Agrarian Psychologist shortly. I’ll get back to you with the details.)
Cristiano adds: “Italians say, Sei come il prezzemolo ‘You are like parsley,’ which means that you are everywhere. We like to use fresh parsley in many, many dishes.”
“When you grow your own, you know there are no pesticides. You know your soil. You know your origin. This is powerful.”
Pasta water (l’acqua della pasta)
3. Water waste: a massive issue in our food system, one extending way beyond the realm of the kitchen.
Cristiano advises: “Save the water from boiling your rice or pasta, and use it for the base of a soup.” (Your soup ends up feeling creamy even though there’s no cream. Very cool trick…)
“You can also reuse the hot water right away to wash your dishes.”
Same principle applies when steaming veggies:
“Don’t waste those precious nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the water. Your veggie water can become the base of a risotto. I’m really into veggies, so I will also sometimes just drink the water.”
4. Stems have feelings too. Don’t overlook them. Save your leafy green stems (kale and chard, for example), chop them up, and saute with a little olive oil. Then throw them into a salad.
Last night, we had quinoa salad with onion, tomato, home-garden parsley and kale stems!
5. How to use dried-out bread:
Bread is holy for Italians. Many Italian idioms include pane and many Italian recipes include applications for stale bread. (Hence the length of this tip…)
“When bread becomes dried and hard,” Cristiano suggests, “just put it into the blender and grind it into fresh breadcrumbs. You get simple, clean, homemade stuff — as opposed to the 20-ingredient breadcrumbs with chemicals from the supermarket.”
“Cooking Sardegna-style, use dried bread layered with other ingredients to create a sort of lasagna (bread for the pasta part) mixed with broth and cheese. This is called Zuppa Gallurese.”
“In Trentino Alto Adige, stale bread is diced and softened with milk, mixed with flour, eggs and other ingredients. Boiled, this mixture creates canederli a type of dumpling (called knödel in Sud Tyrol, from the German).
6. Emptied lemon rinds:
My favorite of Cristiano’s creative tips is rubbing empty lemon halves against your cutting board and your fingers after you’ve handled fish. A natural deodorant, the lemon takes the fishy smell away.
This trick also gives your lemons one last task before they get minced for Compost Vader.
Compost bin (compostiera)
7. Responsible end-of-life:
No, it’s not Darth Vader or a still from Spaceballs. It’s our compost bin.
“The process works best if you mince the compost,” says Cristiano’s fellow — drummer, cyclist and Slow foodie Andrea Marchesini. Mincing helps food scraps to decompose faster. Pretty soon, you have beautiful soil for your garden…
Whatever you do, don’t call it “dirt.” Check out Joel Salatin’s wonderful TEDMED for an explanation of the micro-cosmos that is soil.
Plastic bags (borse di plastica)
8. BONUS: Packaging
Reuse these little guys in addition to your big “green” shopping bag.
Take produce immediately out of plastic (better not to store it there anyway), and pop your produce bags right back into your reusable mother bag for the next time you hit the supermarket, farmers market, or farm stand.