I am not extravagant.
Here I am, tossing a serving or two of pork tenderloin down the garbage disposal. Scraping a serving or two of eggplant into the trash. They’ve “turned,” as my mother used to say, after sitting idly in the refrigerator for a week.
We had the best intentions. The pork was intended for a second dinner; the eggplant for a lunch.
How much food do I waste in a week, I wonder? In a month? In a — gasp — year?
I am extravagant.
This has to stop. My husband rolls his eyes when I reference starving children in Africa (a refrain he heard every night at the dinner table growing up). But really. People around the world are starving: For meals and for the basic ingredients to make those meals. And here I am. Throwing meat and well-considered dishes down the drain.
My parents are much better food stewards than I. Raised barely post-Depression, they grew up in households where every last bit of a meal was rewarmed, repurposed and re-eaten — even if it most likely had “turned.” I’m always a little worried when I go home and find them reheating 2-week-old dinners.
But they understand something I’ve let slip through my well-off, extravagant fingers: Nourishment is sacred. And not everyone is blessed to have it.
I pledge to curb my extravagance. To find a use for those tenderloin ends and that leftover, somewhat soggy eggplant. To repurpose the handful of string beans and quarter cup of mushrooms. To use and eat my food before it turns and ends up down the drain.
I’ll start with this salad:
Made with pieces of previous meals, it was fresh, filling, healthy and seemingly brand-new.
It tasted extravagant.
Extravagant Steak Salad
Truly — make this with whatever is in your refrigerator. I had a handful of mushrooms and string beans, half a red pepper, some tomatoes and some stale bread. A chunk of blue cheese and Sunday’s leftover ribeye rounded out the meal.
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 pound cooked steak, thinly sliced
- 3 slices day-old bread, cubed
- Parmesan cheese
- String beans
- Mushrooms, thickly sliced
- Dry sherry
- Tender spring lettuces
- Red pepper, thinly sliced
- Cherry tomatoes
- Kalamata olives
- Blue cheese, coarsely crumbled
Whisk the lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil until you have the taste you like.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the cubed bread with olive oil and Parmesan on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the bread in your oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring at 5-minute intervals. Remove when golden and crusty.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water, then dry the beans.
Drizzle olive oil in a saute pan. Add the mushrooms and a splash of sherry. Cook until they release their juices. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss a few handfuls of lettuce with some of your vinaigrette. Place in a bowl or on a platter.
Layer on the beans and mushrooms. Add the steak.
Sprinkle on the red pepper slices, the tomatoes and olives, and the blue cheese.
Top with the bread cubes, then drizzle with the rest of the vinaigrette.