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Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Posted by johnliu (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 30, 12 at 1:10

I'm interested in your tricks and tips for dealing with ingredients that aren't wholly up to snuff.

Because while we'd all like to cook with the bursting ripe bounty of the Tuscan countryside, sometimes we have to make do with hard peaches, pale tomatoes, factory chicken, wrinkly carrots, bargain bin London broil, fishy smelling fish, etc.

I don't know too many tricks - that's why I started this thread - but I will offer a couple.

Fruit that isn't sweet - I'll soak it in sugared water. If it is really bland, and the dish can tolerate some manipulation, I'll carmelize the fruit slices in a frying pan of melted sugar.

Chicken like cardboard - brining is the usual prescription. Or, spend extra time on the browning.

Fishy fish - rinse in cold water, then soak briefly in lemon water.

Tasteless corn - boil in 1/4 (or more) milk, 3/4 water.

Unripe tomatoes - slice or chop, then salt lightly and let sit for awhile before proceeding with cooking.

Wrinkly produce - peel it. Looks refined too.
Other tricks?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Arrgh - please mentally insert the missing "With" in the title. Sloppy, sloppy, sorry.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

My best tip for dealing with sub-par ingredients is changing the menu on the spot when I'm shopping. If I am hungry for a peach pie and the peaches are hard, I'll buy blueberries or whatever is better and make a pie out of them.

My problem is that I sometimes buy good ingredients and forget about them until they're past their prime. For fruit, I'll cut the bad spots out and pur�e to make Italian water ice or and add to a basic muffin recipe. Cantaloupe where I guessed wrong goes in the blender for a smoothie.

Vegetables usually go into soup. When I used to deep fry, I'd make corn or other vegetable fritters.

That tough London Broil would be braised. The chicken would be stewed and turned into a chicken pie.

Some things like the smelly fish would go in the trash. My grandmother used to say, "Don't throw good food after bad.". Sometimes I'd rather discard a bad ingredient than spend time and money on more ingredients to try to transform it.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

"Some things like the smelly fish would go in the trash. My grandmother used to say, "Don't throw good food after bad.". Sometimes I'd rather discard a bad ingredient than spend time and money on more ingredients to try to transform it."

AMEN! THere is no way I would eat (or feed my family) something that is "smelly"! BLECH!!!!!

Alexa


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Smelly fish would go into the disposer....it would stink too bad for the trash! LOL!
I always smell fish before I buy it....the fish guy thinks I am nutz...but the one time I was in a hurry and didn't I ended up with salmon that was just a tick past it's prime.
How do I deal with less than stellar stuff? Well stewing or "soup-ing" makes a lot of so so stuff into something wonderful....
And remember, never serve floppy carrots raw, cut the stem bottom of floppy broccoli or celery and soak in ice water.
For tasteless fruit, I add something like vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract, grated lemon rind...or lime juice and rind.

But certain things past their prime go into the trash...green potatoes, slimy meats of any sort. moldy stuff, but for cheese....and if the mold is blue or green, I cut it off and enjoy the cheese....if the mold is red, the whole piece of cheese gets tossed.
Dry bread makes crumbs....slightly stale bread or rolls gets put into a damp paper bag and heated in a 300 oven for 10 minutes, hard brown sugar gets 5 seconds in the micro....buggy grain products get tossed.
If I find my "gang" of mussels has too many dead ones to serve as a main course, I use the live ones in a garlic and tomato sauce over pasta.
Dry cake gets the berries and heavy cream treatment, stale cookies and pies always get eaten.....they have no calories if they are dry and hard.
Linda C


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

The smelly fish trick is common for restaurants. Then, when it's on it's very last leg- smother it in sauce and call it a "special."


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Some fish just smells fishy, it's not bad, that's an ammonia smell. My mother hated all fish because of the way it smelled and that included fish caught that day.

Anyway, I buy local organic produce and grow a little myself and rarely find perfection in fruit and vegetables.
Cut out the bad part, toss the rest. Old, wrinkly, but not rotten? Throw in the stock pot.
For less than ripe tomatoes and strawberries, I use a dash of balsamic vinegar which helps hide the white parts.

Generally, I don't use sub par things and certainly nothing questionable. If fruit is too hard, use something else. I have learned the hard way not to plan major dishes around questionable items like avocados, mangoes and melons.

Too often what I buy is rotten or hard after peeling as I don't seem to have the knack for finding perfection every time!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

My mother in law once accidentally left some fish outside her freezer for a day or two. She took it out as she was trying to find something else...she smelled it, thought that's the way fish is supposed to smell anyway...cooked it and promptly spit out upon first taste. Yuck. Too many people think that fish is supposed to smell "fishy"...not so.

I have a bad habit of buying too much produce...it often goes bad in my fridge. I do try to use softer carrots and celery in soups, but there's nothing you can do about leafy greens other than compost them.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Fruit that isn't sweet - I'll soak it in sugared water. If it is really bland, and the dish can tolerate some manipulation, I'll carmelize the fruit slices in a frying pan of melted sugar.

I would just sprinkle sugar on fresh fruit that wasn't as sweet as I would like. Another option is to use it in a pie or cobbler that contains sugar.

Chicken like cardboard - brining is the usual prescription. Or, spend extra time on the browning.

I prefer to presalt rather than brine.

Fishy fish - rinse in cold water, then soak briefly in lemon water.

I only buy fish if I am cooking it the same day. And I buy from shop that specializes in fresh seafood.
If fish smells it goes into the garbage. Same goes for any other meat that smells. It gets tossed. Why would you want to eat meat or fish that stinks?

Tasteless corn - boil in 1/4 (or more) milk, 3/4 water.

If corn is tasteless there isn't much you can do about it.

Unripe tomatoes - slice or chop, then salt lightly and let sit for awhile before proceeding with cooking.

Leave unripe tomatoes on the counter to ripen. A salted unripe tomatoes is still an unripe tomato.

But if I ever had fish that smelled fishy it would go into the garbage.

Wrinkly produce - peel it. Looks refined too.

I find that most vegetables that become wrinkled are past their prime and should be tossed. Although I suppose if you really wanted to salvage less than fresh vegetables you could use a wrinkle carrot or celery in soup.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Fish is NOT supposed to smell at all....any hint of ammonia means it's rotting.
If the market where you buy your fish smells fishy, go somewhere else. Only rotting fish smells fishy.
I find many midwesterners don't like fish because they have only had fish that was over the hill.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I disagree, a freshly caught fish (minutes from the line), still has a smell. It is a fresh fish smell and as I said, an ammonia smell is a bad smell.

Everything has a smell.
A fresh picked mushroom has a smell, so does cabbage. There is difference between the fresh smell and an old/off smell.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I don't think John is talking about buying smelly fish. It is not difficult to pick fresh fish.

What if you have fresh fish and you didn't cook it right away and it starts to smell?

As with meat and fish, when fish first starts to smell, it is only on the surface, you can just wash it away. If it smells a little more, then you need to use it in a recipes heavy in spices.

You will know if the fish smells rotten.

If cooked fish starts to smell, wash and reuse in another recipe such as omelets, because the texture will not be as good by itself.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

DC, you and I are never going to agree on what is suitable to eat and what is not. I literally cringe when I read some of your suggestions.

Smelly fish (or meat) does not need to be washed or cooked in a recipe heavy in spices. It needs to be discarded.

But hey, if someone wants to buy recently deceased lobsters or eat less than fresh meats and fish, go for it.

~Ann


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Fresh fish/seafood should smell like the sea. Period. The sea does not smell like amonia. For those of you who have been to the beach - it's like opening your windows to a floodtide (incoming), that fresh, lightly salty smell.

The cure for anything is saltwater.
Sweat, Tears, or the Sea...

I have a compromised immune system. I don't take chances with poultry, eggs, meat or fish/seafood. Produce might end up in soup or stock depending on how long it's been around. Generally though I'm of the opinion that God made compost piles for just this reason...so nothing goes to waste. This year's compost becomes next year's garden. :)

/tricia


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I think most fish markets have a certain aroma. Even Tsukji market in Tokyo had that smell. It is not an unpleasant odor, it is just what seafood smells like.

tricia expressed it well - it is not an ammonia smell, but a fresh sea and saltwater breeze sort of smell.

When the fish gets into my refrigerator, I tend to go more by texture than by smell. Smell is easily rinsed away along with the slightly sticky surface layer that develops on fish, even in the refrigerator, unless you have tightly wrapped it in plastic as a sushi restaurant will do. But when the fish starts to get less firm, a bit pasty . . . I don't favor that.

(Of course I will still eat it for some days afterwards - preferably raw with soy sauce - because I am training for the zombie apocalypse, but I don't serve it to anyone who isn't also in training. Soud horrifying? It is all my application of the "Hygiene Hypothesis".)


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I try to buy vegetables that will be acceptable in a saute or stir-fry should they get a bit past their prime. I've got no issue with that as long as they're not slimy and rotting.

Fruit I find less use for; I don't buy much because much of what I buy gets tossed. Fruit tarts and such sound lovely; I often think I should bake more.

Seafood - I certainly agree that fish has a smell. Good fish has a good smell. Maybe there's some good fish that smells fishy, but they're not in my repetoire. I cook and eat fish the day I buy it. Period.

Meat/poultry - Now here's where I waste a lot of money. Intellectually I "know" it's fine, but I simply can't enjoy it if so much as the thought of "is it still good?" crosses my mind. Fortunately I've had help for the past year or so. My new garbage disposal isn't as fussy as I am!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Plant a smelly fish in your garden & it will not have gone to waste.

We have all sorts of fish/shellfish planted in our garden daily by the seagulls. They know what to do with one that's past its prime. :) I follow their lead.

/t


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Fish makes excellent fertilizer, and so you can always bury it in a vegetable or flower garden.

In general, I follow most of Ann_T's recommendations, but with fruit that is not sweet - I sprinkle lime juice on it and enjoy the tart flavor. I sometimes put it in a smoothie with sweetener or make sorbet with it.

These days I seem to use a lot of frozen or dried vegetables, and so I do not have to worry about them going bad. For lettuce and leafy herbs, it is a one-way street, however, which is why I try to grow herbs all year. I go through lettuce so quickly that it does not go bad. If I have more Romaine lettuce than I think I will use quickly enough, I make a Caesar salad, or more appropriately, I make a Caesar salad dressing, which I will store up to a week. I have some in the fridge now because Kevin brought home leftover Caesar salad that lacked dressing.

Stale tortillas can be used to make migas - I'll post my recipe if anyone is interested. Stale bread can be made into Melba Toast. I frequently spray stale bread with a good amount of water and heat it in the toaster oven to give it a better texture. Some stale bread becomes bread crumbs.

I really do not try to salvage old meat or vegetables, but I will do it with tortillas and bread.

Lars


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

The smell I am talking about is not the smell of rotting flesh. It is that not very fresh smell.

Restaurants do that all the time, washing the smell off not too fresh ingredients.

Pre-cooked seafood, including lobsters, crab meat, shrimps, etc., are sold everywhere. I guarantee you the store owners are not throwing away a lobster that just died. I guarantee you that not all precooked seafood are cooked alive.

A dead lobster is no different than a dead fish, which is what you are buying all the time.

Ideally, I agree, everything should be jumping alive.

But let's not go off topic on this thread.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

At the bottom of this link from Maine is a discussion about why lobsters are, for the most part, kept alive until time to cook. For anybody who cooks lobster, I think it's worth reading...some good info.

/tricia

Here is a link that might be useful: Lobster Info From Maine


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

That "not very fresh smell" is what I was talking about also. I do not eat meat/fish that has a smell that indicates it isn't as fresh as it should be.

I would hope that it goes without saying that a rotting fish would be thrown in the garbage. But maybe not.

Since I buy my seafood uncooked, I don't worry about buying shellfish that was not at its best when cooked.
I will be sure to ask the owner of the seafood store I buy from if her practice is to cook fish that she wouldn't sell her customers. I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I will ask anyway.

I fully admit that I am picky especially when it comes to the quality and freshness of meats and seafood. We all have our own standards.

~Ann


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I think I am still on-topic, speaking of Sub-Par Ingredients.

I visit a couple of seafood stores. They have 1/2 price discounts on live lobsters with one claw missing, and 1/2 price on live crabs with a claw or a couple of small legs missing.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

OMG....wash the stinky, rotten parts off and eat it anyway...
Nope!! Not me!!
As I said in another thread....some people will eat things that the rest of us won't touch with a 10 foot pole!

To me sub par ingredients mean limp carrots and tough meat....not spoiled meat!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Ann,

"I will be sure to ask the owner of the seafood store I buy from if her practice is to cook fish that she wouldn't sell her customers."

IMO, that's a bit of a loaded question for your fishmonger. For example, if a lobster dies in the tank it's not likely it will be discarded. You fishmonger probably heads it & it becomes dinner. But, they would also not likely sell it to you in that condition because we are conditioned to believe lobsters must be alive at purchase.

Lobsters spoil quickly so you don't want to keep a dead one hanging out in your refrigerator for several days. But even in restaurants if one dies in the tank - it'll be headed/cleaned, cooked, & served in some fashion. Possibly, lobster salad or such.

/t


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Lobster meat yields are just 1/4 of their body weight, roughly, give or take depending on size and time of year. I would HOPE that lobsters missing one of the three appendages that hold the bulk of the meat would be drastically discounted.

(BTW - No, I'm not counting the "edible" tomalley from our local northeast lobster that last I checked has a health advisory not to eat due to high levels of PCBs.)


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Well, sub par is in the eyes of the beholder. Even "spoiled" is kind of hard to say because the question is "acceptable risks." No one wants anyone to die from food poisoning, so even risks like "one in a million" aren't too good if you are giving out food safety advice for the entire 300 million population of the US. Knowing this however, I realize that most commercially sold meat and dairy products have an expiration date that is well above the date they will actually be spoiled if stored properly, so I routinely eat them past their expiration dates if they are indeed not spoiled. But I wouldn't encourage anyone here to experiment if they are unsure. I have a friend who got quite sick from salmonella once, but he didn't get it from eating overripe meat at home. So a lot depends on the food preparation conditions as well, some are more likely than others to introduce bad bacteria into the meat. But being mostly vegetarian I rarely deal with these issues.

Not sure this is relavent to your question John, since I know you eschew carbs, but there is a whole cuisine based on using up sub par bread. And since I am a huge carb fan, I love most of these dishes. Of course if the bread has no substance to start, then all bets are off. First, toast the slightly stale bread, that can revive it. If too far gone for that, one can often moisten it with water briefly, pat it dry with a paper towel, and then heat it in the oven and it will come back. Or, dice it up, rub it with olive oil and make croutons for salad or soup. Along those lines, try SharonCB's recipe for bread stew, or riboletta, or welsh rarebit, or make one big crouton and serve it over onion soup. Or serve it in salad like fatoush or panzanella. Or make brushetta crackers. Or go another route, soak it in eggs and milk and make french toast, bread pudding, or strata. Or grind it up and use it as breading to cover fried meats or vegetables, as a casserole topping mixed with evoo, grated parm and herbs, or conversely mixedd with brown sugar seved over fruit for a brown betty. Or make a cake or noodles with the crumbs. Or make meatloaf or crab cakes. . .

Most wrinkled vegetables can be peeled and soaked in water and they will come right back. I use such things in soups and stir frys all the time, as well as vegetables that have some bruised or rotten parts, I just cut those parts out, taste what's left to see if it is OK, and then use.

Overripe fruits make the base of sauces to serve over cake or yogurt or pudding or ice cream or on pancakes, or in any number of quick breads such as tea breads, pancakes or muffins. Underripe fruits are a necessary ingredient in jams and preserves, as they contain the pectin that creates the "gell" in those products. I imagine some underripe fruit might help a pie or cobbler "gell" too.

Now don't get me started on milk. It used to have good bacteria in it that would "sour" the milk which did not mean the milk was spoiled. It was a result of good bacteria breaking down the lactose in the milk and the byproduct of their metabolism was lactic acid. A whole cuisine grew around "sub par" milk to include yogurt, irish soda bread, scones, etc., all the baked goods that now have recipes that call for cultured buttermilk or "sour" milk, which we now sour by adding lemon juice to sub for the lactic acid. And then there's soudough bread, which was basically what someone discovered when they left the breakfast gruel out and it "soured" which was the natural yeasts doing their thing. Again, I've never met a baked good idea I didn't want to try, so I use my "sub par" dairy and gruels for these kinds of dishes all the time. One has to be careful with "modern" milk though, because pasteurization kills all the good bacteria as well as the bad, and since farmers pump their dairy cows full of antibiotics, they don't need to be that fastidious and there are all kinds of potential bacterial hazards with factory farmed milk. It doesn't really go "sour" anymore, it just goes from good to marginal to yucky. Still probably won't make you that sick, since every imaginable bit of bacteria in it has been zapped. But it is useless in any recipes calling for "sour" milk. I used to do demos on how to make simple soft "farm" cheeses and it took some real doing to find any milk that I could use, since it had to be non-homoginized. Non pasteurized was even better but that was not possible back then, although raw milk may make a comeback.

Sub par spices--use twice as much unless they are completely spent. Stale nuts can be toasted, unless the oils in them have gone rancid. Same with stale cereals, tortilla chips and crackers, just toast in the oven briefly if they've gone soft. I make pita chips out of marginal pita bread, and tortilla soup out of marginal tortillas. Or use them in a layered enchilada type casserole. The sauce softens them up. You can make bagel chips out of the marginal bagels you have around, although I just moisten and toast, can't be bothered to slice, season and fire up the oven. I make salad dressings out of the bits and bobs of marginal condiments I have, such as russian dressing with ketchup, or add pickle relish for thousand island or honey mustard dressing.

I'm still on the lookout for a way to use up stale cake. Seems like there still might be some life left in it.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Lpink, I absolutely LOVED your 'expose' of old milk.
As I see it, if you decide to ingest any food product
that you think might be behond it's 'use by' date.
then cook the pi$$ out of it. Even harmfull bacteria
don't like high heat.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Lpink,

Triffle with lots of puddin' can hide some pretty stale unfrosted cake! :)

/t


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Some fish smell stronger and have a stronger fish taste than others. Like salmon, mackerel, eel and other oilier fishes. I won't cook mackerel inside my house - I eat it at the sushi restaurant. Let them deal with the cooked mackerel smell!

The Japanese will marinate fishy fish quickly in sake, then rinse and dry it to quell some of the stronger (natural) smells. Americans are used to buying very bland fishes, like cod, halibut, etc., so aren't bothered much with the fishier (mackerel) fishes.

I have some flaccid carrots in the fridge right now - they will be carrot soup soon.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I was thinking triffle, but it needs to be soaked in something no? Isn't tiramisu something like stale spongecake?


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

You can also take leftover cake and make a "bread pudding". I've used leftover spice cake and leftover ginger cake to make a bread pudding.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

For the cake I was thinking about soaking it with melted ice cream, just to saturation, and refreezing. Haven't tried it but somehow it sounds good right about now.

Gina - I don't know if you caught this on a different thread many months ago, but you turned me on to Maangchi and I was on a Korean kick for a while. I bought mackerel but never had the nerve to so much as thaw it. Based on your comments above, probably just as well! Aside from that, it was an enjoyable little kick, so thank you.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Less than fresh pound cake....fruit....heavy cream....doesn't even have to be whipped. Lovely!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

About the fish smell, We did fish in the past, the trout pulled into boat and I could smell "fish". I have never smell anything that resembled ammonia.
Grapes after a few days in the refrig, soak in really cold water, drain and they are as good as fresh picked.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

lpink - traditional trifle has spongecake or ladyfingers sprinkled with sherry. When you layer it with custard, the cake soaks up liquid so you get layers of moist cake alternating with custard. Layers of chopped nuts and cream add richness and texture.

I've always made it untraditionally with layers of fruit as well as cake. I pair booze with the fruit so doesn't have to be sherry. If you have a glass bowl, it makes a stunning dessert. No one will ever guess you were trying to use up cake.

Tiramisu also uses ladyfingers or spongecake, sprinkled with sweetened coffee laced with kahlua or similar liqueur. There are lots of way to use leftover cake!

Cheryl


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I might use a wilted vegetable but never stale cake! It's one of those things that has too many calories for me not to enjoy it at it's very best, which is usually hot from the oven.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Cool FOAS!

i still subscribe to her youtube channel.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Cake doesn't get eaten at my house either, so I'll freeze some, unfrosted, and then give it to the grandkids when they come over. Neighborhood kids would work just as well.

Vegetables go into the "stock bag" in the freezer before they get too bad, along with trimmings. When it's full I add it to the roaster with the chicken backs, necks, carcasses, etc, also kept in the freezer, and make stock which I can for later use.

Fruit is harder. I don't really like fruit much and sometimes that perfect peach isn't so perfect when you try to eat it. I try to buy local fresh fruit and freeze it, I'd prefer top rate local fruit frozen to second rate imported stuff.

Meat never gets old here, I have Cooper and don't buy dog food.

Bread does get stale since I bake my own, so if I don't have a breakfst casserole or french toast or bread pudding in my immediate future it becomes bread crumbs, which also get frozen.

My big problem is milk, I don't tend to drink it fast tenough to keep it from souring. I can't think of anything to do with it then since, as lpink pointed out, it's not like milk used to be. I do make my own yogurt if I have time and think about it, and only keep a small portion of milk for immediate consumption, but I don't always get around to that.

I try to plan my meals daily based on what needs to be used up before it becomes "sub-par", and I try not to buy anything, no matter how cheap, if it appears to be less than fresh or on the edge of less than fresh. However, being so far away from large grocery stores makes doing things like drinking coffee from beans I bought 3 weeks ago necessary, I can't have fresh ones all the time. Many times I'll opt for my own canned or frozen produce over the "fresh" stuff because it just doesn't look that great.

Fish? It smells fishy. That's what fish IS. Just like beef smells like beef and cantaloupe smells like cantaloupe and cheese smells like whatever type of cheese. It shouldn't smell like ammonia, though, or acidic or like anything other than fish.

Thankfully, I've got chickens again so things that were on plates and uneaten all go to the chickens or Cooper. He's the fish-eatin'est dog I've ever seen and loves butternut squash, baked potatoe4s, green beans, swiss chard, etc. but I struggle to get him to eat dairy other than cheese. He's a cheese hound, so there's never moldy cheese here either!

Annie


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Hey Annie you can freeze milk. I tried that but then I forget about it or else I need it right away and can't wait for it to thaw! Or I thaw it and then forget to use it and it still goes bad. Me and milk just don't get along! I love all other dairy products though! :)


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

annie - have you tried condensing it? I just did this last weekend. We use it in Vietnamese coffee. You just boil it down with sugar until it's reduced by about half. Add some butter to thicken it if you like. After it's condensed, you can freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a week or so. I don't really know how long it will keep as it doesn't last long in our house. I can post a recipe if you like - not much to it.

Cheryl


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Cheryl, I would appreciate it if you would post your recipe.

Thanks,
Ann


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Ann - here it is:

6 cups milk (whole, low-fat, skim)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Pour milk into saucepan over low heat. Dissolve sugar in milk. Simmer until reduced by half, stirring regularly to avoid skin forming on surface. It will thicken as it reduces. Beat in butter if desired to thicken.

Notes: I used a gallon of whole milk, with 5 cups of sugar. I think I will use 4 cups of sugar when I do it again, but this IS a sweet product.

I first tried to reduce the milk before adding sugar. Big mistake. The sugar helps to inhibit the skin forming. I was stirring constantly forever until I added the sugar. Then I stirred every 15-30 minutes.

For 1 gallon of milk, allow 3-4 hours to reduce. It didn't work in my slow cooker, it took too long so I moved it to the stove.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

L, I know I could freeze milk, but I also forget it's there, and it's not thawed when I want it on cereal for breakfast or whatever.

Cheryl, thanks for that recipe. I love coffee with condensed milk, SharonCB got me started on that when she was still posting here. Then I looked at the calorie content, LOL.

So, can your condensed milk recipe be used in place of the Eagle Brand type milk, in 7 layers bars and such?

Annie


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Annie, I've only used it in coffee which I drink about once a week. It's addictive - we drink it over ice in summer and hot in winter. Have you tried it with Vietnamese coffee? It's bitter, and is made superstrong. The combination of this coffee with condensed milk is delish!

I'm fairly sure this homemade recipe will work as a replacement for canned condensed milk. The ingredients (milk, sugar) are exactly the same.

There are other recipes for condensed milk using powdered milk. I haven't tried any, but many swear by them. It's easy to keep powdered milk on the shelf so you can make a batch any time.

Cheryl


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Annie, I chuckled at you having to work to get Cooper to eat dairy. Kodiak should have been born on a dairy farm. I let him finish my milk once and he licked the bowl for about five minutes after it was empty. Unsweetened Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, you name it, he goes nuts. On the other hand, I have seen him suck the gravy of a pea and spit out the pea three times in a row, to make sure he gets all the gravy without any horrible, poisonous vegetables.

For tomatoes that have been picked before they started turning and never really ripened, they can be made almost edible by roasting at low temperature until they are reduced in size by half, and used in sauce or soup. Some disappointing fruits seem to be improved by roasting, and almost all are improved by cooking with lemon juice and sugar. Wilted vegetables are great for frying, since the moisture content is lower. They can also often be restored by soaking in ice cold water. I sometimes roast my subpar corn or grill it in a pan, then freeze to use in chili. I'm all about slow roasting chicken. These days, I cook it at 450 until it's about 100 or 120 inside, then turn the oven down to 250 to finish. The connective tissue and fat begin to render, and the chicken tastes much better and is easier to separate from the bone, without bites of scary stringy stuff. That process lends itself well to barbeque sauce, if you put it on at the beginning, it caramelizes as the chicken cooks. A quick turn on a charcoal grill takes it up another notch.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Those are the two kinds of cake I have in the freezer that are past their prime--sponge cake and pound cake. Hmmmm . . .


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Lpink, make sure the past prime cake is actually good enough to still use. The last thing I would do is waste more ingredients, eggs and cream, etc. on sub-par-past-their-prime cake. The finished product is likely to end up sub par too.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Some times frozen cake takes on a "freezer taste"...for want of a better term. That can't really be helped with a creme anglaise or even heavy cream or liquor poured over....but just stale and dry cake benefits very well!!

My mother would make a lemon sauce....not sure just what it was...thickened with cornstarch, rather translucent and sort of lemoney...only slightly thick....and that would go over some fruit on top of pound cake....and of course in the days before plastic bags and foil, that cake would stale very rapidly.....and absorb more of the fruit juice and the lemon sauce.
Wish I knew how to make that sauce....


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Yes, I'll check them for freezer taste and if they have it I know it's hopeless and I will chuck.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Jessica, I should clarify that statement. Cooper doesn't eat dairy EXCEPT ice cream, LOL, which he will beg for endlessly.

Annie


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Ah yes. I'd be worried about any dog who turned down ice cream! Now that he is 18 months old and mature and dignified (ahem), ice cream cartons are the only think that makes Kody forget the rule about not stealing stuff from the trash.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

lindac, here is a lemon sauce I've made before. My mother frequently served pound cake with lemon sauce. As a child, I just thought it was Mom's way of serving more lemon, her favorite flavor. Perhaps she was rescuing stale pound cake!

Lemon Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
Preparation:

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and clear. Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and butter. Serve warm over dessert or bread pudding.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lemon Sauce


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I make an almost identical lemon sauce. Ingredients are the same but the measurements are different.
Less sugar and more water so the sauce is more like a thick syrup.
I use it on Bread and Butter Pudding and on Gingerbread Cake.

Lemon Sauce
Lemon sauce:
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Few grains salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Lemon sauce:
Combine cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small saucepan. Slowly stir boiling water into the sugar mixture.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Cover and cook over very low heat or over boiling water in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until no raw starch taste remains, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and lemon rind and juice.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I collect booklets and pamphlets from WWll that contain ideas for stretching food ration points and suggestions for using unrationed meats, sugar alternatives and fats, which many cooks must hevewould have considered to be sub-par ingredients.

Croquettes, timbales, stuffed meat loaves, bread croustades, crepes (usually called pancakes) and even homemade scrapple are common items that show up time after time. Since butter, sugar and other dairy products were rationed, the most popular wartime desserts were fruit crisps, cobblers or pinwheels.

With our current food choices limited only by budget and imagination, I wonder how we'd cope with rationing like that.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Thanks Ann and BB...I think BB's version is more like what I remembr.....but I think I better try both.
My mother included recipes for all out "favorites" in her cookbo0ok for me....but not the lemon sauce.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Drinking sub-par soda; Nothing more uninteresting than drinking flat fizz-less soda!

This is what I do:

Large bottles of carbonated drinks are cheaper, however, halfway thru, the fizz is gone.

Alway have two bottles on hand. When there are no more bubbles from the first bottle, open the other bottle to mix with the first bottle when you pour a glass.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Sort of like wine.....when you open a bottle of a nice red but can't drink it all and it begins to oxidize, why don't throw it out mix it with another fresh wine....
Nope....not me!...soda flat...toss it....wine goes bad....glub glub down the sink!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I have a recipe for using up stale cake which is quite yummy, if you're interested. Essentially you turn the cake into crumbs, then layer the crumbs in thin layers alternating with layers of thick applesauce and redcurrant jelly. It sets in the refrigerator and can be sliced after it's set. I don't get stale cake often enough to make this :-)


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Posted by Lindac "Sort of like wine.....when you open a bottle of a nice red but can't drink it all and it begins to oxidize, why don't throw it out mix it with another fresh wine....
Nope....not me!...soda flat...toss it....wine goes bad....glub glub down the sink! "

Internet is wonderful, different people with different ideas.

I don't toss flat soda if I can give it new sparkle.

I don't toss less than good drinking wine, I cook with it. I have, as many people have, found the saying" don't cook with wine you don't want to drink." puzzling.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Oh, Cheryl, I forgot to tell you thank you for the recipe, although it may be dangerous to have on hand in the morning when I make coffee! (grin)

Annie


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I think that this thread ties in nicely with the Live to Eat or Eat to Live thread.

It is one thing not to be wasteful, but I think that some of the examples here take being frugal to another level. Especially if you are someone that cares about what you eat from a flavour point of view. If you just care about sustenance than for some it is fine to eat or drink something that is past its prime.

As for flat soda, instead of buying the large two litre size bottles of soda , why not buy cans or small bottles. Then you wouldn't have to worry about flat soda. Half flat and half sparkling is still not going to have the same amount of fizz as a just opened bottle.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Cheryl, I meant to thank you too. I like the idea of making my own condensed milk. Annie, I agree, it could be very dangerous. But I'm willing to chance it.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I cook with wine that is a little less than perfect too. It goes in with the pot roast, cooks for 6 hours, turns into something else entirely. But flat soda? yuck! I don't drink soda, but my dad does and I get cans for him, he has one daily.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

dcarch, I guess you're an optomist and I'm a pessimist: While you'd consider the soda half fizzy, I'd find it half flat!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Soda when it goes flat it is not completely flat, soda in a newly open bottle, IMHO, has way too much fizz. So much fizz it overflows the glass. Mixing the two makes it very drinkable.

The whole idea of this thread is how to improve sub-par food items, not to toss anything the moment it is less than first quality.

I have some associations with the "Meals On Wheels" progam, I am aware of the fact that there are many people who cannot afford to toss food. There are many lurkers and members on this Forum who are in the same position. It would be a pleassure for me to come up with ideas which can be of some usefulness to them.

Old rice typically is used in fried rice, I am almost done with an idea to turn old rice into Risotto. I will post the method when I am ready.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

A Texas treat in the winter is to drink hot Dr. Pepper with a squeeze of lemon juice. I don't know if other sodas are as good heated up, but I know that hot Dr. Pepper is delicious, if you like soda. I quit drinking sodas a long time ago, and don't really like more than a sip or two when it's really, really hot. But I bet a flat soda could be heated up and would be good on a cold winter's day, or used in some kind of sweet sauce.

Oh, and I remember a grocery store that I could smell the fish that was kept at the back as soon as I walked in the front door. I knew I would never buy fish from that store. It closed down a long time ago, but not for that reason. It was just one of those chains that didn't make it.

I have learned that sometimes you can just cut away a bad spot on a piece of vegetable or fruit, and use the rest in a sauce or soup or one pot meal of some kind.

I'm enjoying all these ideas.

Sally


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Honestly I take exception to the idea that utilizing "sub par" ingredients shows poor taste, or that a person doesn't appreciate good food. It is one thing to make yummy meals out of the very best food money can buy, it's another thing to make something yummy out of stuff that some folks find objectionable just due to taste or personal aesthitics alone. Finding new life in old food is just as creative as any haute cuisine out there--kind of like the difference between high art and folk crafts. Is one "better" than the other?? At one time that was the common way of thinking, then "folk art" became all the rage and people started collecting it and paying big bucks for it. Same with "folk music" which many classical composers draw heavily from--Aaron Copelend comes to mind. Is the song "Simple Gifts" something less than "Appalachian Spring?"

Folks have different tastes. I know some will not eat leftovers, but I LIKE leftovers, in fact I think some things taste better the second day. I don't feel deprived when I eat them and I'm not gagging down something inedible either, I find food made with ingredients that some folks would throw out delicious. I made tortilla soup last week from sub par tortillas and some past-their-prime tomatoes and BF and I smacked our lips over it, for dinner and then leftover for lunch the next day!

I respect that folks have different tastes, different economics and different methods of cooking what they enjoy and find to be good quality food, and I find that interesting to discuss. I'm not wedded to one way of thinking about food. To me, food that's fun, creative, frugal and not wasteful is way cool. There is a big difference between eating food that will make you sick because it is spoiled, and finding new life in food that some folks turn their noses up at. In fact, several years ago "peasant" food was all the rage, and many of the so called "gourmet" foods we eat today, "country style" cooking and what not, was the cuisine of the poor and their "sub par" ingredients. Cassoulet for one comes to mind, coq au vin is another. Barbecue was a way to get flavor into the cheaper, sub par cuts of meat. Nowdays the "sub par" ingredients for those dishes aren't easily available, but they were at one time and folks evidently dined royally on them.

BTW, I had "potage de réfrigérateur" last night for dinner along with "salade avec des légumes cuits marinés restes" and it was YUMMY!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

So much for me trying to be all classy and French! How does one type accent aigu and accent grave anyway?


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Heard (for the first time) America's Test Kitchen on NPR this weekend, and they talked about making crab cakes using pasteurized canned crab meat. Mentioned was soaking the meat in milk to remove 'fishy' odor. That's not a sub-par ingredient, just a side-product of processing, I suppose.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

lpink - Isn't that annoying? Worst part is it displays right in the preview step. Actually that's what I do whenever a recipe comes up with funky symbols, copy it into the new message box, preview and it comes up right.

sushipup - I'm going to have to try that. I'm never happy with minimalist crab cakes made from pasteurized crab which is pretty much all that's available to me. Thanks for passing that along!


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

annie and ann_t - you're welcome! I limit my coffee to a small cup over weekends, otherwise I'd just inhale it.

The talk about leftover soda reminded me of the time we had a half-gallon of Coke left behind from some party. I went through recipes and found some for bbq sauce using coke. By this time the coke had disappeared. DH had drunk it all. Leftovers never last long in this household.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Lpink, there is a big difference between inexpensive ingredients and sub par ingredients. You can't compare the two. Like Apples and Oranges. A lot of wonderful meals are made with inexpensive ingredients.

Maybe there is a difference to what one means by sub par ingredients. I interpret sub par to be an ingredient that is past its prime or going bad. Like meat or fish that is past what anyone would call fresh, might even have started to smell bad as in "fishy". And we all know what chicken, beef and pork smells like when it has started to go bad. Or bread that isn't just stale, which would be perfectly fine for bread crumbs or croutons, but might have started to mold. There is a difference between limp celery or carrots being added to soup and vegetables that have started to get mushy and rotting.

I have an aversion to leftovers because my mom was a lousy cook. So something that wasn't great the first time around, certainly wasn't great leftover. And just to be clear, the ingredients she started with were not sub par. She just wasn't a good cook. I don't consider leftovers sub par, unless of course they were originally made from sub par ingredients. Because I don't want to eat the same meal three days in a row, I try to cook for two with no leftovers. With a few exceptions. Like roast turkey or chicken, chili, soups, pasta sauces, etc... Not what I would call sub par.

I love country style/peasant food/diner food. When I think of Cassoulet, made with duck, and sausage and beans, etc. sub par doesn't come to my mind. Not an inexpensive dish and certainly not something I would make with sub par ingredients. Nor does sub par come to mind when I think of comfort food like Coq Au Vin.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, own taste, and own standards. I believe that regardless of what you are making, if you don't start with decent ingredients, the finished dish will suffer.

To each their own.

Sushipup, thanks for the tip. I don't buy pasteurized crab very often, but next time I do, I'll give the milk trick a try.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

The term for sub-par fruits and vegetables in our area is "checks". The demand for perfect looking produce creates lots of orphans who don't meet that ideal vision, particularly in organic produce.

Bee-stung apples, Siamese twinned tomatoes, speckle-skinned peaches and lopsided pears all get a new life as checks. In the commercial growing operations, checks go right to the canneries for tomato sauce, peach nectar, etc. but those from smaller growers are snapped up by home canners at a fraction of the price.

They usually have to be ordered in advance from the farmer and some years, there aren't enough checks to fulfill the demand for that underbelly of the produce beast.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Ann_t's definition of "sub-par" is the definition I think most people on this thread have been using. I thought John just meant those things that one buys that turn out to be not Grade A, or whatever rating shorthand you want to use, when you get them home.

For example, we bought tomatoes the other day that were not flavorful. They were not past their prime. I used them up by cutting them into thin wedges, drizzling with olive oil and roasting in a low temp oven for several hours. Raw, they were awful. Roasted, they were very nice.

Last week, I cooked a steak that was quite tough. After a few slices, DH and I gave up trying to eat it. The next day, I used the leftovers to make soup. The meat gave the soup a lovely flavor and was tender after several hours of cooking.

Perhaps I misunderstood.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I haven't heard the term "Checks" before. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a a less than perfect shaped vegetable or fruit. They might not be as pretty, but I wouldn't consider them sub-par. I guess they need to have some sort of grading though in order to set prices.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

"-----Finding new life in old food is just as creative as any haute cuisine out there--kind of like the difference between high art and folk crafts. Is one "better" than the other?? At one time that was the common way of thinking, then "folk art" became all the rage and people started collecting it and paying big bucks for it. Same with "folk music" which many classical composers draw heavily from--Aaron Copelend comes to mind. Is the song "Simple Gifts" something less than "Appalachian Spring?"---"

Lpink, you have said it better than I ever can.

Lived in the East village in NYC when I was a kid. Before they were "discovered", I ran into Andy Warhol with his shopping bags all the time. I saw Keith Haring's chalk graffiti on subway walls everywhere.

That is why I see value in everyone's cooking, regardless of the style. There is art in everything if you observe without preconceived ideas; it's all in the eye (and mind) of the beholder.

Back to sub par:

My favorite places, Asian stores, and a few local Spanish stores in my area.

Lobsters and Crabs - As I have talked about it before, Asian stores have discount lobsters and crabs. Those are the ones which are almost dead, recently dead or with a claw missing. This store sells them the same price as live stone crabs. $2.99 a lb. A fellow before me took all seven Dungeness crabs. I bought two lobsters 4.5 lbs, one was still alive and one dead. Regular lobsters (large size) were $8.99 a lb. I steamed the lobsters for dinner. There was absolutely no difference in taste or texture with fully live ones.

Photobucket

Vegetables and fruits - these are bags and bags of bruised produce of all kinds. About 5 lbs to 10 lbs a bag. I bought $2.00 (four bags). Bruised fruits will be used for smoothies and jams. There will be a month's worth of veggies after cleaning up and throwing away unusable parts.

Photobucket


On the other hand, I do go the other way. I spent $80 for a lb of morel mushrooms, $15 a lb for ramps, $60 for a doz of jumbo soft shell crabs ------------------.

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Dcarch's post above reminded me of a FoodTV special about food waste in America that aired a few months back. It's a real eye-opener. I buy mostly organic produce so it's rarely "perfect" looking - that's the nature of organic gardening. Desire for the perfect "whatever" is partly what's causing all this waste - Americans do not want to buy a blemished head of lettuce or herbs with a few bug bites taken out.

Here's a link to FoodTV's special. Click on the far right video - "Food Waste in America" & the entire series will play through without any more clicking. It's worth watching. We should at least be aware of what's happening across the country with food waste.

/tricia

Here is a link that might be useful: Food Waste in America


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

"Old rice typically is used in fried rice"

Indeed, I have a hard time making fried rice any other way.

Recently-cooked, i.e. not-old, rice has too much moisture to fry to the desired slightly crunchy, slightly browned texture. At best you end up with mushy "fried rice" reminiscent of a Panda Express.

So normally you make the rice and then leave it out overnight, uncovered.

A long time ago, I did learn how to make fried rice with recently-cooked rice. We were living in a campervan in New Zealand, and Dear Daughter had discovered that she liked fried rice. She was about 8 months old at the time, and could just manage to munch the rice if it wasn't cooked too crunchy. But she didn't want to wait overnight to have her fried rice. The trick was, and is, to cook the rice, then spread it on a sheet pan and broil it, turning occasionally, until the rice got a bit dry and maybe even got a head start on the browning. Then it could be fried normally.

Today, she makes her own fried rice.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

tricia, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!

dcarch


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I remember watching that special on Food Network. It was unbelievable what people throw away! Really sad when so many go hungry.


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

Have you noted what the grocery stores throw out ??? It is horrible. I watched as they were loading fruits and vegetables into a cart to throw away. All the bananas that had one broken off where there was an " uneven" remains of the banana were tossed ! That was a small example. Do you know how many fruits and vegetables are RUINED by fingernails ??? How many idiots plunge their dirty nails into produce to see if it meets their standard of ripeness...the produce is automatically tossed by the staff in the store as soon as the bruising/dent/rotted hole is noticed.

I buy almost all of my produce at 2 local farmer's markets. I go first to the discount shelves to see what is unacceptable to the general populace but to me is perfect. I find all that I can carry and then and only then do I go to the "perfect" displays. I am often rewarded by the owners , they give me the produce free, as they would have to toss it at day's end. It becomes chutney, jam. stew, whatever. Waste in this country is a disgrace. c

Great thread, I agree..sub-par has nothing at all to do with spoiled...only with the less than perfect "look" that we as spoiled Americans have come to expect. c


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I think we've veered off course. To me John's original post was dealing with items that you discovered to be a bit disappointing when you got home (or, um, that you stored too long) and what to do with it. Not picking food in the store.

To get back off topic though, I think there's a vicious cycle of insisting on "pretty" food and rising prices. On the one hand I'm disgusted by the people who peel back half a husk of corn and throw the ear back into the pile because it didn't meet their standards. On the other hand, evidently that's what's become socially acceptable to do so corn prices have gone up. So why should I be the sucker stuck with a "bad" ear? I feel a little ridiculous picking snow peas out of the bin, one by one. On the other hand, if I'm paying $5/lb for snow peas and there are nice ones and ugly ones in the same bin, should I feel guilty about picking the nice ones?

There's a farmstand by me that gives you the choice: Pick your own "premium" tomatoes out of a bin and pay a lot, or buy a basket of tomatoes and pay a lot less. There's a sign above those tomatoes: "No mixing and matching. We're watching you!"


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I'm going to keep the pointy end heading the same (sorry, that's boater's venacular) for a minute.

Americans desire for "perfect" looking food is also partly what's driving the heavy use of pesticides & herbicides.

Americans are consumed with "looks" over substance.

Farmers use more & more 'cides to create prettier products. They plant seeds that ship easier & stay looking pretty over those that taste good and, maybe, even offer better nutrition.

Sure, there are also economical benefits to the 'cides mass agri-business uses such as more product per acre but we can't lay ALL THE BLAME of those awful strawberries on them. We want inexpensive, plentiful, & pretty food but we, in general, are unwilling to pay for the quality we expect.

It's a vicious cycle. We decide we're going to eat local & organic. So, off we go to the farmer's market. Hmmm, the organic apple doesn't look pretty & is smaller than the apples at the other non-organic stand plus it's half the price. Which do we purchase? Pretty? Healthy? We each choose.

My two local grocery stores do not offer bruised produce. It is thrown away in black bags as shown in the video. Heck, here there's not even a "mark down" meat section like I've read others describe here on the forum. If it's pulled from the shelves - it's trash, period.

We live with the sea every day. We are long distance, deep water boaters. We are fisherman. It's ridiculous to say that a lobster MUST be alive at the time of cooking to be safe to eat. But, since most Americans do not have much hands-on experience with seafood...it's good advice to follow. Lobster spoils very rapidly after death & the ensuing bacteria build-up can make you ill. But, I assure you, if something goes wrong in emptying one of our traps & a lobster dies - we do not feed it to the gulls. We'd be rightly laughed out of town if we suggested such a thing. That's waste - pure & simple. But, when I lived in Denver there was no way I'd purchase a dead lobster because I had no personal way of knowing when death occured. In general, IMO, a lobster's good for a day properly refrigerated. Some will still cook at two days but I've got a compromised immune system so am persnickity.

If a fresh fish smells like ammonia it's probably starting to rot. As with most things, there are exceptions. (Skate being one.) But, again, it's good general practice to not eat fish that's starting to smell of ammonia. Should smell slightly briney, like the sea. If DH brought home fish yesterday, or the day before, & it had a slight aroma - would I still cook it? Yes, & I'd do as John has suggested - wash it in lemon juice. It's surface bacteria. BUT, I know exactly when, where, etc. that fish was caught, how it was cleaned, how it was held, & how it was stored. Makes a big difference.

And I still say that everybody that owns a home should have a compost pile to avoid waste even if the resulting compost is used on the roses instead of a veggie garden. Recycling rotted produce from the refrigerator to the earth is the environmentally sound thing to do. Also, if every year you top off your gardens with 4-6" of leaf mould, compost, & manure you will not need to purchase/use commercial fertilizers except for pots. You'll have less garbage that needs hauling away, the city trucks will use less gas, & you won't need to buy as many bags. Win-win. :) Sorry 'bout the compost lecture but it's something I believe most Americans can easily do & don't.

/tricia


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RE: Tricks For Dealing Sub-Par Ingredients

I am with Trailrunner on this one. Grocery stores throw
out way too much 'sub-prime' food. When I was just a tike,
we were very poor, and I used to go with my Father.
He went out behind all the grocery stores in town and
pawed through their garbage cans, (there were no dumpsters
back then). He would fill our car with 'sub-prime' food.
We ate like kings. Even peach pie, which my mother cut
the green parts out of. To this day, I abhor the waste
of food.


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