26 April 2012

Covetous Compost (Pasta)!

The relevance will become apparent. 

I have a challenge.  For the seven people who read this blog. 
It is to Conquer the Covetous Compost!  

I am in a constant battle with our compost pile.  It wants to eat as much as possible.  It puts teenage boy sports teams to shame. 
It gobbles our peels [onion, banana, potato, carrot, cucumber, et cetera].
It grabs our other droppings [apple cores, pear cores, flower stems, celery leaves, carrot greens, et cetera].
It greedily consumes our plate and dish scrapings.

However, apparently, it is not enough.

How do I know this?  Well, it seriously wants more food. It longs for it.  It covets.  The Forster Compost Pile breaks the 10th commandment like it's going out of style.  

 What do we [and the compost] covet?   We begin by coveting what we see every day.

[Name the movie.  If you know off the top of your head, we should probably be best friends forever.  If you don't, call me.]

What is every day around here?  After what does the compost lust?

Well, clearly, the food that goes bad.  You know the stuff -  The three potatoes too many - the one last onion in the bag - the zucchini that was almost grilled - the jalapenos that wanted cream cheese in them and it just never happened.

If the compost isn't secretly conspiring as a result of coveting, then why does so much of our ambitiously acquired produce go bad?

It isn't really that much of it - but it's probably, when I'm being honest, 10% of the produce we buy.  And it's going to the compost - not the landfill - being turned into fuel for next spring's basil plants.  So, it could be a lot worse.  However, it's still 10% of the food - about $3.50 a week - that could be used.

I'm not prepared to say it's that I'm purchasing poorly - I buy a bag of potatoes - which is cheaper than buying individual potatoes.  And then I use 90% of it.  And three potatoes go to the fishes.  Or the worms.  Whatever.  It's not tragic, however, it could, like most anything, be improved upon.

So, I'm working on making it better.

I can simply refrain from buying as much, though, as seen above, that's not really the problem.  More helpful, is figuring ways to use up the stuff on the cusp of being shuttled down to the chicken-wire-enclosed, Clitellata paradise.  

See, if we can eat it now, it will really mean, in the end, buying less stuff.  

So, when I was making my weekly menu, I determined for us to have
 "Conquer the Covetous Compost (Pasta)" tonight -  

I bought a box of pasta.  That's it.  

So, here is my result - and here is your challenge -  
What can you do, not planning at all?  How awesome can we make our extras?  
How wonderful our waste?   
(How ambitious our alliteration?)

That is the requirement.  The only ingredient you are allowed to purchase is noodles.  

Here is what happened at our house:

1 lb penne rigate (I let Collins pick a box - that's what he picked.  He did a good job.  I recommend shorter,
 more substantial noodles for an experimental project.  Long skinny noodles are less forgiving. 

Four pieces o' bacon, cut, using scissors, into 1/2 inch pieces [Could have frozen them - they were left
 from a mostly used pack - but this was better]
1 large purple onion, 1/4 of which had gone soft, chopped into 1/8 inch by 5/8 inch pieces.  ;)
1 1/2 cups (ish?) grape tomatoes, some of whom were not salad worthy
1/2 lb fresh spinach that never got made into smoothies - almost, but not quite, unworthy of a salad

1/2 stick of butter [staple]
1/4 cup flour [staple]
4 cups whole milk [I purchased whole milk for some cheese dip I was making last week for which I was
 not willing to risk our usual skim, so I had tons to use up!]

1 1/2 cups freshly grated cheese  [I had two chunks - one extra sharp cheddar and one smaller block of
 swiss - both with one sneaky small green spot of mold on the end.  I cut off the mold and grated the rest up.]

1/4 tsp ish of cayenne
1/2 tsp ish of dehydrated garlic
 1 tsp ish of kosher salt
1/2  ish black pepper
[WE NEED THE LITTLE TILDE EQUALS SIGNS - you know - ~, but double lines, like = - in Math
 it means equals ish.  Which is a necessary category]

Boil noodles.  Drain. 

Throw bacon in hot pot.  Let fat begin to render.  
Throw in onions.  Sweat thoroughly.  

Throw in tomatoes.  
Toss in Spinach and gradually wilt down.  I remain amazed by how much volume spinach loses in cooking.  

Dump spinach, tomatoes, bacon, onions in a large mixing bowl with the noodles.  

Back to same pot.  
Melt 1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
Add 1/4 cup flour.  Whisk to form paste.  
Add 4 cups whole milk, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth and allowing to thicken 45 seconds after 
each addition.
Add seasonings and cheese.  Stir until melted/blended/married/happy.  

Toss noodles and vegetables.  
Either serve immediately or place in baking dish, top with a little more cheese (holds in moisture)  and 
Pop it in the oven on 300 ish for 20-40 minutes.  Just watch the top of it.  

This fed us all generously - leaving enough to feed us all again and then maybe one - two servings of leftovers. 

I know it is probably 5 dollars worth of ingredients, but it's really only 1 dollar worth of ingredients of which
 I wasn't already a proud owner. 

$1.00 - Pasta on Sale at Kroger.  

Okay, so seriously, what can you do with the stuff you're about to throw away?  

Don't let the Compost covet you into wastefulness! 
It's an evil little demon and it must be stopped. 

Ann Lowrey: 1

The comeback has to start sometime.  It started today!  Victory shall be mine!  

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