Creative Cooking: using the season and leftovers

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This summer, I’ve tried to become as creative as I can in the kitchen by mostly using in-season produce and finding ways to use it all before it goes bad.

In-season produce can easily be found at a local market or at the farmer’s markets. I choose to try to support our local farmers by attending farmers markets, but you are limited in what you can buy, which is why it’s great to learn to cook in season.

Food waste is also a large problem, especially with regards to produce as many produce items come in pre-packed bags, or are naturally large.

However, it can be repetitive to eat produce items the same way as always, so I’ve attempted to find new ways to eat produce before it goes bad.

In the recipe below, I present a solution for both. Sometimes I buy the produce to make this meal, which has now become a family favourite. While it may seem like a daunting recipe at first, it is actually very simple.

Summertime Pasta

This is technically gnocchi, but potatoes are not mandatory. For this recipe, I will be using ratios not measurements because it’s all about just using up your leftovers.

This will make a lot more food than you expect, but the dough can be saved either on a heavily-floured, plastic-wrapped baking tray in the freezer or cooked and eaten within 2 days.

Ingredients:

  • In season vegetables (really almost any vegetable)
    • For summer, I recommend these combos (feel free to mix and match different ones, they don’t really have flavours which would contradict)
      • Spinach & Broccoli
      • 1 Beetroot & 4-5 New Potatoes
      • Carrots
      • Cauliflower
  • Plain Flour of choice (can use GF, Whole Wheat, Regular, etc.)
    • You will need a lot of flour; I would start with a cup and then add more as needed
  • Eggs (or can use olive oil as the binder)
    • Start with one and add as needed
  • Salt and Pepper

In-season produce can easily be found at a local market or at the farmer’s markets

Method:

  1. Depending on the vegetable, you either want to boil, blanche, or bake the vegetable to get it to a malleable state that can be mushed: For spinach & broccoli, blanch the spinach with boiling water for about 3 minutes. Put broccoli in boiling water for about 5. Strain out as much water and place the vegetables together in a food processor to make into a paste consistency. For beetroot & potato, bake at 220 degrees celsius in an oven dish filled with enough water to cover ¾ of the beet. Cover the dish tightly with aluminium and bake for 45 minutes. Place potatoes in boiling water for about 20 min to half an hour. Put the beat in the food processor until it forms a paste. Mash potatoes using a fork or potato masher to make as smooth as possible. For carrots or cauliflower, boil/steam until soft. For carrots, mash using a fork or potato masher. For cauliflower, wait until less hot, then place in a clean dish cloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. This process should mostly leave you with mashed cauliflower anyway.
  2. On a clean surface place flour in a volcano shaped mound (i.e. make a crater). Place the mashed or paste veggies inside and add an egg or oil on top. Also add salt and pepper. Using a fork, scramble the egg and then start to incorporate all the ingredients until combined. If it needs more liquid, add another egg or some oil.
  3. Using your hands (which I recommend covering in flour), knead until it reaches a dough-like consistency. Add flour as needed. Knead until a single ball forms. Cut the dough into smaller pieces and roll out into ropes (about 1cm thick). Then cut 2.5cm pieces away.
  4. Optional: roll the dough pieces over a fork to make ridges or shape them as you please. My younger cousin who helps me likes to mould them into hearts.
  5. Put pasta pieces into a boiling pot of water. They will sink to the bottom. When they rise and float they are ready. Use a spoon to remove them from the pot. Place in a strainer and, when all are finished, wash under cold water to stop them cooking. Coat in sauce and Enjoy!

While it may seem like a daunting recipe at first, it is actually very simple

Sauces: Pesto or Pomodoro

Parsley Pesto (by far one of the easiest things I’ve ever made and gives a sharp refreshing flavour)

  • ½ cup cashews
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • ⅓ cup shredded parmesan
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Ricotta (optional)

Put everything in a food processor until combined and YUM! Add a scoop of ricotta for some added flair!

Pomodoro Sauce (quick and easy to prepare, just make before the pasta so it can sit on the heat and become perfect!)

  • Olive oil
  • Any tomatoes you have, small and/or large – just enough to make a sauce
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced
  • 1 onion, white or red, sliced/cubed
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Pasta Water
  • Ricotta (optional)

Sauté the garlic and onion in a pot until the garlic turns brown and the onion is transparent. Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook until it cooks down. Add in the spices. Leave to sit for an hour while you make the pasta, then add pasta water as needed to thicken up the sauce. I recommend using sparingly until you reach the thickness you’d like. Pour over pasta and add some ricotta!

Image: adam tyler brumley via Flickr

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