My family likes to make fun of Ga-ga (our grandma, NOT to be confused with Lady Gaga!) for her inability to let anything go to waste. She freezes milk, which she later defrosts in the microwave. You’ll find a half-eaten sandwich and half a glass of wine in the fridge, because you never know when that afternoon craving for a snack and some vino will strike! She even asks to take home the extra free bread at restaurants, which she’ll then freeze and find some use for in the future.
As much as we like to kid about her Depression-era tendencies, I’ve actually come to appreciate her thrift in the kitchen now that I’m living on a Depression-era budget. While I’m not freezing my milk or asking for the scraps at restaurants (yet) I do try to be as resourceful as possible when it comes to cooking and food shopping. Now that the cost of food is coming out of my wallet and not from a dining hall or from home, it kills me to throw out spoiled veggies or leftovers knowing that it’s my money going straight to the trash.
So when I prepared a batch of pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto earlier this week, I had to put my thrifting skills to work and find ways to get the most out of my pesto without it going to waste by the weekend. The recipe is from the latest issue of Bon Appetit in which it is served atop pan-seared salmon. After three nights in a row of salmon with pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto it was time to switch it up. But what to do with the extra pesto? Well, I happened to have a few brussels sprouts in the fridge, some chicken in the freezer, and pasta in the pantry. So rather than use the pesto as a condiment, why not use it as a sauce for a pasta dish?
My pasta creation turned out to be a great success. The pesto nicely accompanied the nutty whole wheat pasta and hearty brussels sprouts. You’d never know that this dinner was pulled together with the scraps from my fridge and pantry. Being thrifty in the kitchen can push you to get more creative; and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results (as will your wallet). I think this is a meal Ga-ga would be proud of 🙂
Pan-Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Seed-Cilantro Pesto, adapted from Bon Appetit
makes 3 servings plus extra pesto for the following recipe
2 1/2 tsp plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 tbs fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup water
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 salmon filets
1. Heat 1 1/2 tsp oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and saute until they begin to brown and pop (about 2 minutes). Transfer seeds to paper towels to drain and let cool. Reserve oil in the skillet.
2. Pulse the pumpkin seeds, cilantro and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the machine still running, gradually add the lime juice, 1/4 cup oil and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add remaining teaspoon of oil of the skillet over medium heat. Season salmon filets with salt and pepper. Add salmon to the skillet and cook until just opaque in the center, about 3-4 minutes each side. Serve salmon with pesto.
Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Chicken & Pesto
1 cup brussels sprouts, quartered
Kosher salt & pepper
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup dried whole wheat penne (or whatever pasta desired)
1/2 cup reserved pasta water (if needed)
Leftover pesto from above
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place brussels sprouts on baking sheet. Toss with a glug of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast until the sprouts are tender and begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Season the boiling water with salt and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes.
3. Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in another skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Toss until all sides begin to brown.
4. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the cooked brussels sprouts and pasta to the pan. Toss with the remaining pesto. Thin out the sauce with some reserved pasta water if needed. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve hot.