Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Clean Sweep

On my way home one day this month I heard on the car radio that it was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. That's all the inspiration I needed to nudge me toward the job I have been meaning to get to for some time.

The day was gray and drizzly as I put on some coffee and my favorite news channel and got to it. I emptied the refrigerator shelf by shelf and began the task of cleaning everything while sorting through the odd bits one inevitably finds in even the cleanest refrigerator.

Maybe because of the down economy, I have been reading and hearing a lot lately of using up and finishing the leftover bits in the refrigerator and pantry at weeks' end.

I don't know about you, but I was brought up in a blue collar Italian-American family. Every bit of food was used all the time. In our house it was tantamount to a sin to throw away food. We ate mostly delicious peasant dishes containing very little meat. My mother always said my father did not like leftovers, so she did not serve them. Perhaps she misunderstood the meaning of the word.

Every Thursday--and I mean EVERY--my mother made a large batch of tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage. We would eat it that evening with pasta, called macaroni back then. Then EVERY Sunday we would eat it again. If rarely she would cook an eye round roast, it would appear a couple of days later under hot gravy alongside fried potatoes and peppers. A pot roast and potatoes would reappear as hash. To her these were not leftovers. I guess now one would say "cook once, eat twice."

As I cleaned out my refrigerator I was intent on using what I could. A half cup of white beans was mashed with some garlic and olive oil and added to some ground turkey along with an egg, some breadcrumbs, a half red pepper diced, and some seasonings to make turkey burgers. Various odd greens--endive, red leaf lettuce and some chicory along with some kalamata olives became the evening's salad.

And my favorite--one lonely tablespoon of marmeleda de jalapeno, carried back from Mexico City, topped the last bit of goat cheese on top of a piece of crostini. Along with one lone glass of sauvignon blanc this became my reward for a job well done.

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