I live in a community with an overall low socioeconomic status, and because of that, I'm lucky in that there are charities that deliver food that either is close to the expiration date, banged up, otherwise look bad, or are mixed with spoiled produce, so you need to pick through them to find the good stuff. A few blocks away from me there is a distribution point, and a friend of mine posts in our community group if they have any leftover food once they finished their distribution to their regular recipients; after that, it is a free-for-all for whoever wants to come to take because otherwise, it'll end up in the trash. Now that I have a car, hopping over to pick up what is left over, often at 10 pm, is not a big deal, and I have been able to really benefit there.
Recently I got some great stuff from there, and I wanted to show you what I did with it all. I was very proud of how much goodness I was able to make from what was available, together with what I already had at home. I made this for a nice dinner, with the intention of having lots of leftovers- it's easier for me to cook all at once and then have what to eat later.There was a huge amount of carrots. These were long and thin, which is why they are free, because most people don't want to bother with needing to peel those and being left with such small things.
There were lots of packages of corn on the cob, each having some gross parts in the package, but most parts of the ears of corn were fine.
They had a boatload of scallions in perfect condition. Not sure why they were being given away.
They had some eggplant that were mostly fine but were a little wrinkly because they were old.
There were some giant lemons.
Lastly, there were cabbages that had some dried outer leaves but the insides were fine.
I could do this. I love these challenges to see what I can make with a specific set of ingredients, especially when it's a really large amount of ingredients, especially ones that I don't use so frequently. I feel like this is especially when my creativity starts to shine.
I did that when I had:
When that happens I sometimes get this ridiculous ideas of combinations that might work, and Google to see if it's a "thing", or to get ideas for additional ingredients to add. I sometimes get great suggestions from people in Facebook cooking groups. Or I scour the internet for new and unusual ways to use these ingredients.
Some of these ideas make their way permanently into my kitchen, like the Korean cucumber salad I discovered and is now one of the staples in my house since the kids and I all love it and it is a perfect way to use up cucumbers that are getting a little bit older.
So here is what I made.
I roasted a lot of carrots with olive oil, thyme, oregano, basil, black pepper, and salt, until they carmelized in the oven. I didn't peel them. No need for this.
I made made carrot and scallion soup. No official recipe, just chopped up a bunch together (unpeeled carrots), boiled, blended, and seasoned it to taste. It didn't need a lot, maybe just some garlic powder and salt.
I made leftover gluten free noodles into scallion noodles, using this recipe, more or less.
I chopped the thicker parts of the scallions (only took the thickest ones), and roasted it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Yummy! Tasted amazing and I just kept snacking on them until they didn't make it to the meal. It was a total experiment.)
I had baked potatoes that I served with sour cream and scallions (unseen in the picture since I took it after cooking, but not after serving).
I made a pesto like sauce out of scallions, garlic, olive oil, and some other ingredients, and cooked fish in it, but it was kind of insipid; I wouldn't recommend doing the same.
I wanted to try to make gluten free scallion pancakes and ran out of time. I also didn't get around to making Vietnamese scallion oil.
For the eggplant, I had some leftover TVP based fake meat sauce and I used that to make a vegetarian version of moussaka (I used real cheese, so it wasn't vegan).
I cut the yucky bits off the corn on the cob and boiled it in water with sugar and salt. The perfect way to make good corn on the cob. It looks pale in this picture because it was white corn (I'm pretty sure).
I planned on making quick pickled lemons... but never got around to it. I just ended up using them in salads at a later point.
Lastly, I just took off the outside dryer layers of the cabbage and it was perfect on the inside. Using it I made my Grandma Betty's Hungarian cabbage with noodles with leftover gluten noodles for my kids.
The food was wonderful and all a hit, other than the fish flop. It was such a great feeling to be able to make a feast frugally, with mostly free ingredients. Such a feeling of accomplishment!
Have you gotten any good deals on produce lately? What would you make if you got this produce for free in large amounts?
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