Food waste — uneaten food (raw or cooked) and food preparation scraps from households, restaurants and grocery stores — is a problem. As food production requires energy and water and draws nutrients from the land, when the food is wasted, all those resources are wasted, too.
Preventing food waste is within our reach. Awareness is a good start but we can take additional steps. The Zero Waste Humboldt, EPA and CalRecycle websites offer information and resources to help us understand and address the problem of food that is not consumed. They include specific advice — we can take what works for us and adjust other elements to our individual situation. When I go to the farmers market, I balance my enthusiasm for all the beautiful produce on display with the awareness of how much our household can consume and make my purchases accordingly. It's also good to have plan B for extras. I have go-to recipes for when I see vegetables in the crisper that are starting to look sad — they can still shine as ingredients for a soup or a casserole.
Not wasting food is one of the pillars of the education I received from my parents, who both experienced the food insecurity caused by World War II. For example, we always ate leftovers (that is how I discovered that I liked day-after lettuce salad) and bread that became too dry was turned into breadcrumbs.
We can fill our plates with reasonable amounts of food, clean those plates, and properly store and eat the leftovers. We can also minimize trimmings and, where possible, use them up before discarding them, hopefully to the compost bin. For example, corn cobs, basil and parsley stems, the dark green leaves of leeks and celery root parings (scrubbed well) are all great additions to the stock pot. (Store them in the freezer until ready to use.)
One way to avoid food waste is using vegetables "leaf to root." This is particularly easy with root vegetables whose greens are not only edible, but tasty, like beets, radishes and turnips. Chard and beet stalks also make great ingredients ("Charmed by Chard," July 14, 2016).
During recent visits to the Arcata Plaza farmers market, radishes provided a note of bright color difficult to pass up. Buying a bunch of radishes is a 2-for-1 deal because the greens are an ingredient in their own right. I separate them from the radishes immediately when I get home and eat them as soon as possible. And, of course, I eat the radishes, too, usually in one of the big salads I make for dinner.
The first thing I ever cooked with radish greens was a frittata, so this is the recipe I am sharing here. It uses the same ingredients I started with years ago but instead of a skillet, I'm using a muffin pan to cook the eggs. The result is small, individual portions that also work nicely as a party offering.
Egg Muffins with Radish Greens
Select a cheese that has a little sweetness to it, such as Gouda or sweet cheddar.
Makes 12 muffins, serves 4-6.
3 ounces radish greens (if you are short, add some spinach or baby kale leaves)
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup (1 ounce) minced shallot
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
6 large eggs (preferably pasture raised)
3 tablespoons water
1 ounce cheese
Wash and drain the greens. Cut the leaves into ¼-inch strips and chop the stems.
Warm up the olive oil in a skillet on medium. Turn down the heat, add the shallot and stir well. Cook on low until soft (about 8 minutes), stirring often, then add the greens and stir well. Cover and cook the greens until tender (about 8 minutes). Sprinkle half the sea salt on the greens, stir and set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with large, unbleached paper cups.
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs until the yolks and whites are just blended. Pour in the water and whisk lightly to incorporate it. Add the rest of the sea salt and whisk briefly.
Grate the cheese. Add the cooked greens to the eggs and stir, then add the cheese and stir.
Using a soup spoon, distribute the egg and vegetable mixture evenly into the paper cups.
Bake 14-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Take the pan out of the oven and carefully slide the muffins onto a plate. Remove the paper cups (or let the guests do so) and serve immediately.
You can store leftover muffins in the refrigerator and enjoy them the following day at room temperature.
Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com and shares photographs on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly likes to create still lives with produce from the farmers market.