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February 21, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not

As I may have mentioned (like, a thousand times), I’m thrifty when it comes to food. And I’m fearless. I’ll take home leftovers from anywhere, even if they aren’t mine. I’ll shop the scratch and dent can bin at the grocery store, and I’m not afraid of food that’s a little past its expiration date, a lot if it’s been in the freezer and I’m planning to cook it anyway. Heat kills everything, right? Right. And you can always add a splash of wine, which kills any lingering bacteria (not a scientific fact).

I interrupt this post to let you know you’re safe eating at my house. I know that not everyone has the stomach to handle this stuff, so I only do it to my own family. They’ve been conditioned since birth to eat dangerous food.


Have you ever taken a fish head home from a restaurant? I have. And if I have a fish filleted at the market, I will be taking the head and bones home and throwing them in the freezer. The fish head, the bones, any part of a thing that I paid for, I get to keep. It’s like oven heat. You already paid for it. It’s yours to use as you please.

The above fish head has been languishing in the freezer and I had some time on my hands this weekend, so I decided to make stock with a recipe, instead of throwing a bunch of scraps in a pot like I usually do. Thanks, Epicurious!


While it’s cooking, stock looks gross, especially once the fish eye comes loose and floats to the top, staring at you and asking , “Why?” Why? Because I paid for the whole fish. Eventually, that stock will get made into grouper chowder. (Like the recipe but you didn’t get free grouper from your mother-in-law? Any old fish will do.)

In other recycled food news, a few days ago, the fridge and the cupboard were bare. But I found some cooked white beans in my freezer and a forgotten bulb of fennel in the fridge. If you have random ingredients? Google is your best friend. Food 52 had my back with this awesome dip, which I served for dinner with a salad. Yup, bean dip, bread, and a salad.


Oddly enough, we didn’t manage to finish off the dip, so I made it into soup the next night. All I added was some chicken stock from the freezer and a little hot sauce, which probably should have been added to the dip in the first place.


Some of our best meals have come from working with what was available. Peering into an almost empty fridge can be like going to Goodwill. Maybe you thought you knew exactly what you wanted, but you found something even better. Being thrifty takes creativity. And creativity leads to greatness.

I thought about that the other day when I read Food 52’s post challenging people to cook something using only ingredients from their neighborhood bodega and then share the recipe. So, I don’t live in New York City, or any big city, and I’m not even sure we have bodegas. But Columbia has plenty of grocery stores that feature foods from other countries and cultures. They’re usually small and independently owned with limited, yet excellent ingredients. I live around the corner from the Super Acapulco (510 Beltline Boulevard in Columbia). The first time I went, I was in search of a specific root vegetable to recreate something I ate in Haiti, which they had, along with icy cold Diet Coke, lots of dried herbs and spices, my favorite kind of tortillas, house-made tamales, and much, much more. I’m going to take the Food 52 challenge with ingredients from the Super Acapulco.

Do you have a favorite small neighborhood grocery store? Want to join me?