Bob Blumer hates food waste. The Food Network host and cookbook author likes to imagine there’s a surveillance camera in his kitchen, to keep him true to his values. The goal: to use up every last peel, stalk or jar scraping.
“Every time I’m going to throw something, out even a tiny bit of an onion or the yogurt at the bottom of the container, I think, ’What would people think if they saw you throw that out?” Blumer told HuffPost Canada.
His new cookbook, Flavorbomb: A rogue guide to making everything taste better, is peppered with ideas on how to cut food waste and save money on your household grocery bill.
One of the surprise benefits of cutting food waste is that you can can actually intensify the flavours of the dishes you make, just by adding punchy extras that would otherwise be tossed, from the oil in your sundried tomatoes jar to the rind from your Parmesan cheese.
“Once a week, you should go through your fridge and just take inventory,” said Blumer. “You don’t want to wait until things are already rotting or spoiled, because then it’s too late.”
Even if you are lucky enough not to have to worry about the cost of food, we all still have a social responsibility to cut food waste, Blumer explained.
“At times during the pandemic, the grocery stores were lined up outside, and inside some of the shelves were bare,” he said. “If you were using up everything at home, you were buying less and leaving more for the next person in line.”
And then there’s the environmental factor: “Food that’s thrown out contributes to greenhouse gases, all through the food chain ― we owe it to each other to waste less,” said Blumer.
At home, in Los Angeles, Blumer puts next to nothing in the municipal green bin. As well as trying to use up everything possible in his fridge and pantry, he composts, to make fertilizer for his garden, and keeps chickens that are grateful for tasty scraps. “They give us eggs in return,” he said.
Below is Blumer’s ingredient-by-ingredient guide to cutting food waste in your home and getting the most bang for your buck from every item on your grocery list.
“Just store drippings in a jar in the fridge. Use it to fry eggs or fry or roast potatoes or vegetables.”
Fish bones and shellfish shells
“If I buy a whole fish and grill it, I often take the bones afterwards and throw them in water with some fennel tops, then I simmer it to make a really light and flavourful broth. You can do that with lobster and shrimp shells too. I reduce the broth, to save space, then freeze it in a regular jar, leaving a little space so when the liquid freezes and expands, it doesn’t pop the lid.”
“I fry them up and give them to our dog.”
Chicken or turkey necks, bones, and organs
“The neck and bones you can use for stock; the liver you can use for pâté. You might not want to make stock or paté every time you have a chicken, but if you put them in a plastic bag in the freezer you can wait till you have enough of them.”
“If it’s almost spoiled you can use it for cakes or dulce de leche. If it’s not really spoiled, but you know you can’t get through all the milk you have in time, make hot chocolate.”
See how Blumer makes pesto in the video below, which he created as an ambassador for “Love Food Hate Waste Canada,” a Metro Vancouver initiative.
“I also juice parsley stems; I do a pineapple juice with celery, and throw in some stems. When I have leftover green herbs (parsley, dill, mint and cilantro), I proactively keep an eye on them, so I can do something with them while they still have a couple of days left.
And I love to make a green sauce too: Take a few handfuls of your green herbs, including stems, throw them in a blender, add some olive oil, a garlic clove, a squeeze of lemon juice, some salt, and maybe capers and an anchovy. Then keep that green sauce in your fridge, and it will last for weeks, because the oil forms a cap over the fresh ingredients. You can use the sauce on grilled shrimp, steak or chicken breast, or even potatoes, and it adds a whole other dimension.”
“Peel off the hard outer skin and chop up the tender middles finely for slaw or stir fries.”
“Beet tops sautéed are only one short step away from Swiss chard. One of my favourite recipes is roast the beets, sauté the tops, and then serve them with a little bit of goat cheese.”
Fresh chilli peppers
“These can be air dried and used in the same way as you would if they were fresh. You could also make like compound butter with them, to melt into dishes that taste better with heat.”
Tomato puree/adobo sauce/curry paste (leftover in the can)
“Roll these pastes into logs, in plastic wrap, and put them in the freezer. Then every time you need some, you just sort of cut off as much as you need. With the adobo sauce, you get the whole chipotle in it, so it’s easiest to just take the whole tin and blend the contents, so it’s evenly distributed, then freeze it.”
“I use tons of zest, in all kinds of recipes. If you add orange zest to your granola, it brightens the taste so much. You can candy the peels too.”
Fruit pulp (leftover from juicing)
“I give the pulp to my chickens! Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer then add it to your banana bread or a loaf of something. Pineapple pulp is especially good for that.”
“You can peel then freeze ripe bananas, either whole or chopped, for smoothies or baking. I love banana bread French toast.”
Watch Blumer’s instructional video for banana bread French toast. Story continues below.
“They last in the fridge for three or four days. And you can always add them to your next batch of scrambled eggs. You can also freeze egg whites, in a plastic bag, and they will perform exactly as if they were fresh, after defrosting in the refrigerator.”
“You can refrigerate or freeze the yolks too. The trick is to add a pinch of salt per yolk, to help maintain its consistency.”
“You can whisk the whites and yolks together then freeze them, to use later in baking or an omelette.”
Parmesan cheese rinds
“My favourite use for rinds is in a dish with white beans. Throw them in a pot, add some water and a few lemon peels, and a head of garlic, and you simmer it till the beans are ready then you squeeze out the garlic and you fish out what’s left of the parmesan rinds. They give off a lot of flavour, and a lot of the rind is melted into the broth. Then you get this lovely rich flavour.”
Watch this video to see what Blumer does with pasta carbonara leftovers. Story continues below.
“Leftover wine will last for weeks, if you want to keep some for cooking. You can keep it in a Mason jar with an airtight seal in the fridge, then add a splash to sauces.”
“I make fried bread crumbs, to put on pasta or Caesar salad. I smash dry bread with a mallet to make rustic, uneven breadcrumbs. And then I’ll fry them in oil, or maybe a little leftover oil from canned anchovies.”
“You can freeze those to make stock, maybe with some beef or chicken bones too. Or you can use little pieces of vegetables with leftover cheese and eggs, to make a free-tatta. It’s a great way to use up leftovers in your fridge, before you go grocery shopping again.”
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