Food & Drink

‘Eat it up’ provides tips on cooking without waste

Eat It Up! author, Sherri Brooks Vinton presents ways of achieving no waster from leftovers through proper storage and thoughtful meal planning.

Vinton’s stated purposes to help us save food and money. The book was not written to force you to clean your plate. Nor is it simply a guide to leftover use (though of course there are some suggestions). She notes that using up the food we buy instead of throwing (half by most accounts) away much of what we buy will save money. She instructs us in using the parts of plants we might throw away—tops of greens, peels, rinds, tiny pieces and even the brining liquid that some plants are stored in. For her, a plant can be used from stem to stern. Vinton presents ways using up food can save time, taste great preserve natural resources. She notes that such total use of what we buy also honors the hard work of the local farmer who grew the plant or raised the animal we are consuming which also maximizes farmland productivity.

Vinton does not merely relive the frugal days of the Depression in using up everything,. She also develops new recipes. And, she is thoroughly modern in her approach to making use of all of these parts quickly. The pressures of modern life are before her at all times. Usually I wait until a book comes out before I send in a review, but this one merits a pre-order. I do not want you to miss it. I’ve already marked at least a dozen of her very simple recipes (to try) and marked off several sections of the book as great lifetime reminders.

Why am I so enthusiastic? Well, since we are a family of two, I’ve recently become aware that my contribution to food waste has been vast. My freezer is full of little tidbits and even though I try to keep leftovers in an easy-to-find place for use as lunch or side dishes, much gets tossed.

Too much. Her emphasis on good and fresh present us with an exciting range of new ways to view things like vegetable tops. She shares with her readers, chef secrets on making tasty food garnishes like parsley flavored olive oil to garnish plates and drizzle over a salad.

One of her great contributions to using up food we have already cooked is her advice on how and where to store leftovers. “Keep them all on one shelf,” she advises. Good advice. Because there is no easier way to grow mold than to “loose” a dish of leftover “whatever” as it shifts from shelf to shelf and place to place on those shelves after it has been served. Storing produce with delicate items on top of hardier helps those veggies to retain their delicious life.

She also advises us not to stow perishables on the door of the frig and to store dairy products on the lowest shelf since it is colder there. That’s something I need to do! When it comes to both fresh and leftover food, she is detailed in her description of what it means for food to “go bad.”

She carefully explains the differences between stale or limp but useable and smelly and unsafe.

Of course, whenever there is a question, err on the side of safety and toss it out. She gives specifics on refrigerator temperature to keep food fresh for the longest possible period.

For those unused to cutting vegetables, she explains all terms and provides illustrations of cutting. I love greens and I love quinoa, so Quinoa Salad with roots and greens, one of the first recipes in the book, immediately stole my heart as a healthy spring dining option. The nature of the book keeps it from being organized in a traditional fashion. She is dealing with types of food. So her chapters are arranged in that way with subsections on types of foods within the broader character. Read through the table of contents with a sticky note pack at your side, marking the pages with things you want to go back to and use.

Section one, “Nose to Tail Produce” is broken up into segments that have recipes for how to use “Apple Peels”, “Asparagus Stalks”, and more. Then comes “The Whole Beast” where Vinton teachers us how to render fat, use things like giblets, bones, eggs (use up whites or yolks left from other recipes). There is an entire section in that chapter devoted to how to butcher a chicken where she proceeds to show us how to utilize every bit of the bird in one way or another. Whole chickens are generally much cheaper than cut-up. And I must admit, her directions are not hard to follow if you have a good knife.

She then tackles the “Pantry”, explaining uses for stale breads, making quick pickles, your own mustard, quick jams (a tea jam!) and how to use honey, molasses and maple syrup to jazz up some soups and veggies. She offers three recipes, including the dirty martini for using up the juice in a jar of olives.

Last but not least, in her “A Little Extra—Upcycling”, she offers us recipes that are the final destination for those bits and pieces that did not go into a recipe, things you have saved in small baggies in your freezer for making croquettes, empanadas, and more. Her Resource section offers connections to wild food sourcing, to learning how to use what you absolutely can’t save as compost and more.

Even the most experienced chef will find this book interesting and the novice chef will get off to a good start on cooking without waste.

Title | Eat It Up! 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food you Buy

Author | Sherrie Brooks Vinton

Publisher | Da Capo Lifelong Press; Release Date May 24

Price | $18.99