Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I know I’m a slacker and haven’t written anything lately. I’m trying to get through a few things and will hopefully have some energy for writing soon.

This post is for my friend Elizabeth, who checked the site and called me out on my slackerhood (is that a word? I don’t think so—I told you, I don’t have much energy for writing right now).

She sent me a link to a review in the Financial Times of a book on food waste and said the review came with a photo of a dumpster with heels of bread, which she said made her decide she needs to turn the heels of bread her family doesn’t eat into bread crumbs instead of letting them sit in the refrigerator and get stale and moldy.

I’ve compeletely forgotten what I’ve written before, so at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say that I don’t generally eat a lot of bread because cheap bread isn’t good and good bread isn’t cheap. Tortillas are a much better value, so the sandwich-type things I eat are wraps and quesadillas, and also pita bread which is generally pretty affordable (especially if you live somewhere with a large Middle Eastern population and can get it in an ethnic market).

But I do buy bread occasionally and I keep it in the freezer so I can use it a piece at a time and not have to worry about it going bad before I get to it. You can put it straight from the freezer to the toaster and it will work fine.

Usually I end up with heels and broken pieces in the bag and I just keep those in the freezer until I get around to cleaning things out, then I take them out and tear them into small pieces and put them all together in the blender to make bread crumbs.

I just mix all the different kinds together—whole wheat and 7-grain and french bread and sourdough. Whatever’s in the freezer goes into the blender, which makes for an interesting mix. I put the resulting crumbs in a bag (double-bagged to try to make it as airtight as possible) and stick them back in the freezer, and they’ll eventually start to taste like the freezer, but other than that, they’ll keep pretty much indefinitely.

But that’s only the first step of the process.

You have to actually use them for something for this to do you any good.

You can use them in meatloaf or meatballs, and I also found a recipe for bread crumb muffins in the More-with-Less Cookbook which sounds sort of weird but was surprisingly good.

Crumb Muffins

Preheat oven to 375
Combine in mixing bowl:

1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted margarine or butter
1 cup dry bread crumbs

Stir and set aside
Sift together

1 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder

Fold dry ingredients into liquids. Stir just until all is moistened. Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 25 minutes.

There’s also a recipe for bread crumb cookies in the Tightwad Gazette, which I haven’t made but sounds like the same idea.

Bread Crumb Cookies

1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup melted shortening
2 cups bread crumbs

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry mixture. Add melted shortening and bread crumbs. Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until done.

Also Marion Cunningham has a really great recipe for spaghetti with bread crumbs in her book Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham (which is one of my favorite cookbooks, even though I already knew how to cook when I bought it).

Spaghetti with Parsley, Garlic, Olive Oil, and Bread Crumbs

4 servings

1 pound spaghetti
2 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
a few sprigs parsley (to make 1/4 cup chopped)
[NOTE: I use parsley if I have some in the garden, otherwise I leave it out and it’s fine]
6 cloves garlic (to make 2 tsp finely chopped)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Begin to cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.

While the spaghetti cooks, saute the bread crumbs in 2 Tbsp of oil over medium heat until the crumbs are lightly browned (watch carefully so they don’t overcook). Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.

Chop the parsley. Peel and chop the garlic.

Put the serving bowl and plates into a warm oven to heat.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and put into the heated serving bowl, along with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, parsley, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss the noodles to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Sprinkle bread crumbs over all, and serve immediately.

Marion Cunningham says, “If you are worried about the raw garlic, don’t. It gets tempered when it’s tossed with the hot spaghetti.” I don’t mind that because sometimes I have a vampire problem in my kitchen, so it helps with that anyway.

It’s what I eat when I haven’t been able to make it to the store but want to cook something good for dinner.

There’s also a similar recipe in a little cookbook I have called The Goodness of Olive Oil, but it doesn’t include bread crumbs.

Spaghetti with Olive Oil, Garlic and Parsley

1 pound spaghettini or tagliolini
6 Tbsp fruity or extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 dried chilli pepper, crumbled
salt and freshly milled black pepper
generous handful of flat-leaved (Italian) parsley, washed and chopped

Heat plenty of water to a vigorous boil in your largest pot. Add a drop of oil and salt and, when the water returns to a fast boil, add the spaghettini. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes, until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and seasoning. Simmer for a minute, then remove before the garlic burns. Throw in the parsley, which will crackle. When the pasta is ready, drain well and put it into a heated serving bowl. Quickly reheat the oil and pour over the pasta, mixing well. Serve.

So there you have it, three recipes involving something you usually throw out, plus a bonus recipe for good measure.

Waste not, want not.