Waste not, want not . . . Sandwich of the Day!

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Back in October 2014, I published a post entitled Waste Not! Repurpose. At that time I was exploring the idea of using as much of the ingredients I was working with as possible to cobble together something else worth eating and lessening the amount of my own household food waste.

Food waste and hunger are worldwide challenges and there is much to read about both subjects if you have an interest in learning more. Consider these two statistics that were motivation enough for me to find better, more creative ways to use my raw food or leftovers that might otherwise end up in the trash: The average American household throws away 300 lbs. of food per year; the average American household throws away $2,200 of food each year.

Factor in waste generated from the food service industry, the restaurant trade, and the grocery stores and it is clear that the problem still needs to be addressed.

You might say to yourself, “what can I possibly do to address a problem of this magnitude?” Well for starters, if more households made better use of the food they buy and consume each year, that would go a long way in addressing the problem. In the October 2014 post, leftover roasted squash was used to prepare a risotto dish and the leftover risotto was then used to make arancini. One meal’s ingredients building off another to fashion two additional meals–that’s just one example of how it works! Which brings us around to the sandwich of the day, or should I say open-faced sandwich, in this post.

Red chard stems, which in many instances are discarded, were sautéed with garlic and sweet onion, then paired with ricotta, and saba, atop a toasted slice of semolina boule to fashion a tasty open-faced sandwich that we enjoyed for lunch.

The red chard stems could have just as well been stems from green chards leaves or a mix from a batch of rainbow chard, while the bread could have been sliced from many different loaves. I was simply working with what I had on hand. The saba was added to provide a note of sweetness and make the topping just a little more interesting.

Red chard stems

Saba is a reduction of unfermented grape juice (grape must) that can be found in many wine growing regions scattered around the Mediterranean rim. Saba also goes by the names of sapa, vin cotto, or mosto cotto. The concentrated sweet flavor pairs very well with roasted meats such as duck or lamb, strong cheeses, (Gorgonzola comes to mind), and some roasted fruits, (grapes for example). A little goes a long way and it adds a nice punctuation to whatever it is drizzled on.

Saba

Here is how this easy, quick-to-assemble, open-faced sandwich was put together.

 

Sandwich of the Day!

Ingredients (serves 2)
Stems trimmed from one bunch of chard leaves, minced
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 slices of rustic bread, toasted
2 to 4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 generous tablespoons saba

Method
Mince and or chop the vegetables as noted.

Mise en place

Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the prepared vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until they are soft and lightly caramelized, stirring often.

Sauté

Toast the bread and spread the ricotta evenly. Top the ricotta with the sautéed vegetables and drizzle the saba over the sauté. Couldn’t be easier!

Toasted bread

Plated

So the next time you are using chard in one of your meals, don’t discard the flavorful stems. In addition to the open-faced sandwich described here, they can also be added to soups, stuffing, a frittata, or even pickled.

Remember, waste not, want not. I’d be interested to know what you repurpose next time in your kitchen.

Eat well. Be well.

DM

“For you know one must be inspired to cook. Therefore, we always learn from others and end up teaching ourselves.” James Beard

 

 

 

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A Tomato Soup Variation

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You say Toe-May-Toe, I say Toe-Ma-Toe … A Tomato Soup Variation.

At this time of the year there is always a soup or stew, ready on our stovetop, to enjoy with lunch or dinner as a foil to the winter’s chill. It seems to me that one of the quickest and simplest soups to make is a tomato soup because it requires very few ingredients and for the most part can be prepared entirely from items that are on hand in your refrigerator and pantry.

One interesting observation I have made is how many variations of tomato soup there actually are. Besides all the commercial food packagers who try and entice us to purchase one of their canned soup offerings that line the grocery store shelves, many cookbook authors and recipe developers include variations of the soup either in print or on the Internet.

Some tout their recipe is the best tomato soup you will ever taste, while others claim theirs is the only recipe you’ll ever need! Some are creamy, while others are chunky. Some are spicy, while others are thickened with bread, such as the Italian variation Pappa al Pomodoro. It seems there is no right or wrong recipe as it all comes down to a matter of personal taste.

With that said, after much trial and error, with an extra pinch of this here and a little tweak there, the following is the tomato soup recipe I now prepare as the base from which to build a meal–either by garnishing the soup in a variety of different ways (for example, by floating in a couple of jumbo shrimp first sautéed in butter, garlic, and Aleppo chili flakes), or simply accompanying a steaming bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich. What I like about this recipe is that the end result becomes a velvety broth with a rich, light smoky depth of flavor.

 

A Tomato Soup Variation

Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
Bacon or pancetta
1 large onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 generous tablespoon rice (used to thicken)
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pimenton
3 cups tomato puree with juice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup Half & Half
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste

Method
In a large stockpot over medium high heat, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in which to render and crisp 3 slices of bacon or diced pancetta. Set the rendered meat on a paper towel to drain, then finely dice and set aside.

Render bacon or panchetta

Add the onion and whole garlic to the rendered fat and sauté until it begins to lightly color and soften.

To the sauté add back the diced bacon along with the rice, thyme, bay, pimento, salt and pepper, stirring to coat and combine.

Flavoring base

Add the tomato and the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and allow the soup to thicken, occasionally stirring for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and use an immersion mixer to finely puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Ladle the soup into a fine mesh strainer and using the back of the ladle, press the soup through the strainer, removing any remaining solids to obtain a velvety smooth broth.

Soup ready for immersion mixer

Final strain

Return the strained soup to the pot over low heat and add the butter and Half & Half, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Check and correct the seasoning as needed and serve the soup in warm bowls as is, or garnished as you like, or even accompanied by that grilled cheese sandwich.

Speaking of that, a large bowl of this tomato soup and a thick grilled cheese sandwich paired with an ice cold bottle of champagne will be how we plan to welcome in the New Year!

Tomato soup, grilled cheese, champagne!

Happy holidays and good health in the coming New Year.

May you continue to Eat well and Be well.

DM

The dishes of our childhood stay with us forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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