Friday, April 9, 2010

Play Day, My Way

I adore the days that our Second Harvest truck comes in at the Club. For the two of us that live in the kitchen during the week, it's essentially like Christmas every Wednesday morning when we're able to unpack the box of produce and see what it is we actually have. I have to admit though, it was less than thrilling for me that first week - I was so used to the A-1, super-prime quality fruit and vegetables that were delivered to the school and long-term care kitchens that peering into a seemingly endless mountain of floppy carrots, browning celery, spotted tomatoes and the like was a major letdown.

Marlene, though, has never looked that gift horse in the mouth, and now I wouldn't dream of it either. Regardless of the state of the donations, they are donations, and without them our kitchen simply could not function! We come in to simply find creative ways to prevent any waste that we can, and feed the kids over the course of the week with what we have. It can be tricky, for sure, but you get resourceful, and I'm proud to say that I've been able to bring in my experience from cooking for this blog to add a fresh approach to the menu. Even when the produce is (to the naked eye) too far gone to save, I've adopted the "never say die" approach - I at least try to do something with it!

Major case in point was the box we got last week - 20 tomatoes in various states of disrepair, a handful of very wilted scallions, two bags of baby carrots, 5 or 6 bell peppers, 5 zucchini and a large bag of bruised, pre-peeled garlic were amongst the goodies. There wasn't enough of anything to use for a single meal for the kids, and nothing would keep until the next week's box came in (not that it would be usable either!). As I stared at the table of produce, it finally hit me - sauce! Few things are easier to make and store for a decent period of time than a rich, roasted melange of vegetables pureed into a velvety topping for pasta or rice.

There isn't really a recipe for the sauce I concocted, since it truly depends on what you have on hand. For us, that was all our tomatoes, peppers, scallions, garlic, baby carrots and two of the zucchini, along with two large onions, that I tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper before throwing them onto a couple sheet trays and roasting them for about an hour at 375F. Then, I begged Marlene to drag out her Vita-Mix (I know!) and threw everything into it along with a can of tomato paste and some Italian seasoning.

The result was something garlicky but sweet at the same time, perfect over that week's myriad of pastas that were put together both for the kid's meals and that the staff brought in for lunch. Some of it even got used as a dipping sauce for Club-made tortilla crisps, as well as leftover pizza crust and breadsticks from their movie night. Even the young kids took to it, having it with radiatore and garlic bread one lunchtime. It would probably make a fantastic stew addition too.

1 comment :

David T. Macknet said...

I hope that you're getting to teach them some of these mad skillz you use. Truly, it'd be a blessing. Of course, you're in Canada, so maybe kids there are more connected to the earth & know where their food comes from? Californian kids don't & it's one of the big pushes amongst the slow-food movement: trying to get kids to understand about cooking & food production, so that they can become un-addicted to fast food.