“Operation: Eat from the Fridge”


I wrote that on a piece of my daughter’s construction paper in pink marker and scotch-taped it to the front of our fridge.  I’ve been taking note of a nasty little habit our family’s been falling into lately.  It looks like this: Pulling the trash basket and compost bin next to the fridge while rotted greens, plastic-wrapped covered bowls, and expired dairy gets tossed.  And I know it’s because we’re just not seeing; we fall out of practice.

This is the revolution, or rather, operation.  Eat what you Got.  You can do this by performing a few regular tasks.  One, clean the fridge each week.  This gives you a sense of what’s still in there and gives you the chance to organize, make visible, and make room.  Two, incorporate those few turnips in the drawer, the little bit of heavy cream, and the collection of cheese knobs into your recipes for the week.  Three, make refrigerator soup each week.  For us, soup is perfect on a Sunday, since I do most of my market shopping each Monday, by Sunday we’re struggling to pull something together.

Take this operation beyond the fridge and examine what’s in the pantry too.  I always seem to have little handfuls left of grains, beans, legumes, and canned things like chickpeas and tomatoes.  All perfect for a hodgepodge soup. Bottom-line, allow what you already have on hand to dictate your upcoming meals.

When I have leftover greens and herbs, which is ever-true in summertime, I find that pesto is a good place to use them up.  Pesto can virtually be made with any leafy green and a variety of nuts.  If you want to use tougher greens like kale, swiss chard, turnip greens, or spinach, make certain to blanch them first in boiling water and squeeze out the moisture.  Pesto freezes beautifully to boot–do so in ice-cube trays and then you’ll have cubes to grab down the line.

This kind of practical, depression-style cooking has become my mantra.  And for good reason.  It cuts down on waste, saves us money, and pushes us to be creative in the kitchen–all important and aspiring goals.

Here’s my pesto recipe, if you haven’t seen it here before:

GREEN PESTO, makes one cup

1 or 2 plump garlic cloves


3 tablespoons pine nuts

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried, or in combination with other herbs and greens

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons soft butter, optional

½ cup good extra virgin olive oil

By Hand.  Smash the garlic with ½ teaspoon salt and the pine nuts to break them up, then add the basil leaves a handful at a time.  Grind them, using a circular motion, until you have a fairly fine paste with very small flecks of leaves.  Briefly work in the cheese and butter, then stir in the olive oil.  Taste for salt.

In a Food Processor.  Use the same ingredients but in the following order:  Process the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until fairly finely chopped, then add the basil and olive oil.  When smooth, add the cheese and butter and process just to combine.