I hate throwing away food. During the summer, weekend excursions and impromptu backyard barbecues at the neighbors' sometimes leave me with a fridge full of forgotten produce. Staring at bunches of herbs that will soon fade to yellow, I start to feel guilty and proceed to turn the kitchen upside down with an afternoon's worth of rescue projects. This week, I saved a few helpless victims from ending up in the compost heap and their second lease on life was better than the original.
The recovery operation began with a box of wrinkled little apricots. They were never that great in the first place, which is probably why they remained in the produce drawer for weeks. Their slightly dry flesh had no sign of rot, but eating one was like biting into a slightly wet cotton ball. I've always heard that cooking sub-par fruit is a good way to eek out the most possible flavor. So I chopped them up and threw them in a pot with some sugar, lemon juice, and thyme. It simmered on the stove until I forgot about it. The result was an accidentally caramelized apricot jam. It was sweet and tangy with a subtle bitterness from burnt sugar. The sad stone fruits now stood proud in their mason jar—transformed from unwanted mealy fruit to "artisanal, small-batch" preserves.
Next up was a big bunch of Italian parsley with a few leaves beginning to yellow. How could I use it all up in time? "Three 'P' pesto" was the answer. I plucked off all the good leaves, gave them a rinse and a spin, and blended them in the Cuisinart with some Pecorino cheese, unsalted pistachios, olive oil, and garlic—another jar of goodness to stock the fridge, perk up pasta, and smear on sandwiches.
It made me feel good to save the dying produce. I felt even better about transforming it into something delicious. So take a look in the back of your fridge and do your good deed for the day. Your family and friends will thank you for the heroic effort.
Recipe for three "P" pesto
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only
1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup grated Pecorino romano cheese
salt to taste
1. With the motor running, drop the clove of garlic into the food processor and run till finely chopped.
2. Add the parsley, pistachios, cheese, a few glugs of olive oil, and pulse. Add more olive oil, if necessary, and blend to form a paste. Taste and add salt if you like.
Recipe for accidentally caramelized apricot jam
1 pound fresh apricots, pits removed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a gentle bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the fruit breaks down and the sugar begins to caramelize, about 45 minutes.