Taking Stock


Making stock feeds my deep desire to use up food. I think I inherited my grandparents' Depression-era ethos: never throw anything away. (Though they took that to kind of a disgusting extreme, to be honest.)

I love that you can take bones from a roasted chicken or pork chops, add veggie scraps you've been saving the the freezer -- ends of onion, celery and carrots, the outside leaves of lettuce that are less-than-beautiful, parsley stems -- and in a few hours turn them into a steaming pot of deeply flavored stock. (Omit the chicken bones and add some chopped mushrooms for a vegetarian version.)

It's a metaphor.

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Candied Pixie Peels

These are Pixies. They are an important part of local history and a source of great pride here in Ojai -- the sweetest, most seedless, easy-to-peel, organic little gems. Growers from other places aspire to steal their market with names like "Cuties," but it's not the same at all.

When they're in season, my family goes through them by the crate. We have a few trees ourselves, but they're still too small to grow enough for us.

Throughout the summer, whenever we eat one, we toss the peel in a freezer bag. And then, near the holidays, I candy the peels and create a sparkling burst of citrussy goodness for cocktails, fruit cakes and general snacking.

Here's a recipe. You can use any pesticide-free citrus peels you like. But try the Pixies and you'll know what I'm talking about.





Pie Shake


Something special is happening this week and I bet you've never thought about it before. After Thursday, millions of people across the United States, people who may disagree about everything, are going to find themselves with something in common: they are all going to have some goopy leftover pie and they are not going to want to throw it out.

I have the answer. It's a Pie Shake.

Take whatever pie you have lying around. Toss it in the blender with a scoop of ice cream for each person you're serving, and add a little milk. Not much. Blend and serve!


Mostly Empty Jam Jar

You find yourself with a mostly empty jar of jam - or peanut butter or Nutella or Speculoo. Do you toss it in the recycling? Well, no, because as my husband's cousin, whose family was in the waste management business (for real, not the Tony Soprano version), explains: leaving crusty food inside jars makes them much harder to recycle and more likely to end up in the landfill.

So how do you avoid that while not catching yourself in a moral quandary by wasting water rinsing out the jar just to feel good about recycling?

The simple answer is the same answer for many questions: ice cream! Take your mostly empty jar and add a scoop of ice cream to it. Stir it around to pick up the remaining raspberry or peanut goodness. And a jar with milkfat is easier to quickly rinse out (in dishwater is fine).

A win-win!



A Very Ojai Recipe

Okay. You go to Ojai Rotie. You get a chicken and a bunch of delicious sides. You also wisely buy a whole loaf of Claud Mann's sourdough.


You have leftovers: part of a chicken, a small scoop of tabouleh, a few potatoes, some of the carrot stuff, that awesome garlic spread.

Do this:

Strip the chicken meat from the bones and toss it in the fridge along with what's left of the sides. Simmer the chicken bones on the stove overnight in plenty of water with some veggies. (I keep a silicone bag in my freezer and toss in onion ends, wilting celery, carrot chunks, Italian parsley stems - anything that would be good in broth - for whenever I have a chicken or want to make veggie broth. Not cilantro or beets or anything dominant like that.) Maybe throw in some peppercorns and a bay leaf.

The next day, cool and strain the broth, toss in all your Rotie leftovers, simmer for 15 minutes and serve with the sourdough and some good butter. YUM.





Stale Bread, Part Three: Soup

Tomato-Bread Soup Recipe | Martha Stewart

This week is a double whammy of repurposing: you took your leftover bread and made Panzanella. Now, you take your leftover Panzanella and toss it in some veggie or chicken broth, throw in some combination of cannelini beans, chopped onions, canned tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, basil -- whatever you've got -- and presto: a delicious, bright, hearty soup! Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle some good olive on top.

(If you want to make this but don't have leftover panzanella -- just saute some onion in olive oil and throw chunks of leftover bread and the above ingredients in. Maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar too. It also works well with leftever garlic bread.)



Stale Bread 2: Panzanella


In the oeuvre of recipes designed to use up food that's getting a little stale, panzanella is a bit of a showstopper. Meaning "little swamp," panzanella is something to make when two stars align: great tomatoes are in season and you have some really good leftover bread. Something springy with a good crust, like sourdough or a peasant loaf. It's got to stand up to being marinated without becoming soggy powder. And only make this when you can get the best tomatoes, bursting with flavor and juice at the height of the season.

There are millions of recipes around for this bread salad, with lots of variations. (I'm sure the original concept was: "I've got stale bread -- let's go see what's in the garden today and make a salad out of this.") 

So: tear or slice your day old (or couple of days old) bread into chunks. Toast it in a low oven or a cast iron pan until it's crunchy all the way through. Make a vinaigrette of your choice and toss chopped tomatoes and torn basil in it. Some recipes add chopped cucumbers, diced red onion, bell pepper, oregano. Some have capers. Some have chopped Greek olives. You want a roughly equal volume of bread chunks and veggie mix. You can also toss in some feta chunks or fresh mozzarella. (If you use feta, ease up on the salt elsewhere - like maybe skip the capers or greek olives.)

Make layers of bread chunks and salad mix in a baking dish. Cover it and let it stand for an hour or two before tossing and serving. A sprinkle of microgreens on top would be lovely too!

Stale Bread, Part One

One of my favorite quadrants of cooking is recipes that are designed to use up something that's not spoiled, but also not as fresh as it once was. We'll be talking about this for a few weeks, so today we'll start with that staple: stale bread.


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Peony Martini

I promised last week that I'd tell you what to do with the leftover sake in which you've been storing your ginger in the fridge. Voila!

Pink Martini Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector Graphics ...

Peony Martini

One part gin of your choice (Hendricks is great for this)

One part ginger-infused sake

Two parts raspberry lemonade

A raspberry and/or a very thin slice of lemon

Shake liquids over ice and pour. Drop a raspberry to the bottom and/or float a lemon slice on top. The cocktails will be a lovely light blush color.

(Bossy bartender post script: Freeze your martini glasses first! And shake that thing 50x.)




A Knob of Ginger

You buy a giant ginger root. You use some and put the rest in your refrigerator drawer. You forget it. You forget it until you reach behind the broccoli and EWW. A moldy-yet-also-dried-out mess.

No more! Thanks to a long-ago tip from my friend Jenny Phelps, I always have fresh ginger! And you can too.

When you first buy it, take the time to peel and slice down the whole thing. (Don't berate yourself too much for putting more ginger than you'd like into the compost - it's just too hard to peel around all those corners.)(Or better yet, save the little ends and pieces, skin included, and drop one or two in your tea.)

Then slice the ginger into 1/2" pieces, toss it in a jar, cover with cheap sake and put it in the fridge. It lasts forever, and it doesn't leave a sake taste in whatever you're making.

Next week? I'll tell you something awesome you can do with the sake when the ginger is gone.


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