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Take It In: A new way to think about leftovers

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Take It In: by Carol Bareuther

What should chefs do with the leftover ribs of kale, carrot tops and bruised apples? Some would throw them away. Not celebrity chef Dan Barber, who has two New York restaurants and a host of awards to his credit, including being named top chef in America by the James Beard Foundation and one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2009. Barber, at his food waste-centric pop-up restaurant WastED, turns this so-called garbage into gourmet fare. Menu examples include a Stew of Kale Ribs with Pockmarked Potatoes, Rack of Black Cod with Carrot Top Marmalade and a Dumpster Dive Vegetable Salad tossed with bruised apples and pears. Charter chefs can do the same.

Why? Food waste is a global problem. In fact, the worldwide volume of wasted food is estimated at 1.6 billion tons, and more than 80 percent of this is edible, according to the Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. If the sheer waste isn’t bad enough, it creates a huge environmental burden, too. The FAO calculates that the water used annually to produce food that becomes waste is equal to three times the volume of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where the FAO is headquartered.

On charter, controlling food waste is a great cost-control measure. If budget is no object, there’s still only so much room on board and no one wants to fill this space with stinky garbage between port calls. As Barber shows, it’s possible to use rather than throw out food scraps, and serve delicious and nutritious meals too.

Here are three ways you can reduce food waste on board:
1. Buy ‘ugly’ produce for cooking. If you’re going to slice, dice or chop a fruit or vegetable, it doesn’t matter if the whole item is picture perfect. Plus, there’s no difference in taste between something misshapen and its regular counterpart. Even produce items that have a bruise, soft spot or are overripe can be used in cooking. For example, cut out the bruised section in sliced apples or pears, trim the soft spot from a bell pepper and use overripe (but not decayed) bananas in smoothies or to make banana bread.

2. Have a Plan A, B and C. Plan before shopping that perishable foods like meats, poultry and produce go beyond one starring role on the menu. For example, use fresh basil in a Caprese salad, then leaves that don’t have the eye appeal of fresh to make pesto, and any leftover to dry or freeze to flavor another dish, such as a soup or casserole. Likewise, serve a crusty loaf of French bread hot for dinner, whip up French toast the next morning, then use any leftovers to make croutons for salads or breadcrumbs for coatings. Another idea is to serve a whole roasted chicken, use leftover chicken meat for a salad the next day and use the leftover bones to make broth. Onion skins, celery leaves and carrot peels can also be added to the pot as a savory soup starter. Similarly, with fruits, use the rind cut from pineapple, orange peels and kiwi skins to make infused water. It’s very important to wash these fruits before cutting to use the outer sections in a food safe manner.

3. Waste can be labor saving. Wash carrots well before peeling. Then peel. Use those piles of peelings to make carrot muffins for breakfast or carrot cake for dinner. It’s less work than hauling out the food processor or working by hand to grate the amount of shredded carrots needed for these recipes.

Finally, charter chefs who practice food waste reduction techniques are in good company with their land-based brethren. Of the more than  1,300 professional chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association of the U.S. for its What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast, 67 percent called “food waste reduction” a hot trend in terms of culinary concepts and another 22 percent identified it as a perennial favorite.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Comments are welcome below.

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