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Dumpster diving with a culinary purpose

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Apparently the "freegan" movement has been around for several years, but a recent article in the Boston Globe highlights the key points of these trash-scouring advocates. This is actually a good idea, if you ask me. Having come from a kitchen background where nothing went to waste, it's easy to appreciate the virtues of what these people are trying to do. Don't take this as a literal endorsement of jumping head-first into the nearest refuse container (hepatitis is a bitch, I hear), but the concept bears considering.

If you've ever worked for a classically trained French chef, you know that nothing, save for spoiled foods, is ever discarded. Bones and vegetables scraps are cleaned and used for stock; trimmed fat and meat are used for forcemeat and charcuterie; protein left over from last night's service is fed to the staff. The essence of this ideal draws from the rural country farmer, who doesn't have the luxury of hucking his onions in the trash because they have a bruise on the skin, or keeping only the tenderloin from his prize swine and then dumping the rest of the carcass on the side of the road.

You don't have to be a card-carrying, ski lodge-burning wacko to appreciate the principle behind this movement. To be sure, a few of these people probably think a carrot screams when it's peeled, but all in all, they seem more intent on using the good food that's all around us in America, refusing to let it go to waste.

Unless your food is getting green and fuzzy, here are a few of my favorite ways to use food that's lying around to create a good meal:

1) Stock. It was mentioned above, but it's the best way to make something delicious from veggies and meats that aren't on your dinner plate.Thanksgiving just passed us by, and shame on those of you who tossed the turkey carcass in the trash. Trim the fat, roast the bones, then simmer for a few hours with whatever herbs and veggies you're digging right now. Freeze the stock and save some coin in the long run.

2) Sandwiches. I think of Cuban sandwiches. While purists may argue, any pork cut can be shredded, pulled, sliced or diced and used in this, the most wonderful of all bread/meat combos. Have a pork chop left over from last night? Slice it up and throw the cheese, mustard and pickles between two slices and melt accordingly.

3) Fruits. While not a dish per se, many associate fruit with either breakfast or dessert. Rather than toss your apples or pears in the bin, throw them on the grill with some chicken or pork. Also, juice and freeze any citrus before you discard.

4) Pasta. The noodle was created for this very reason. Historically, pasta is a culinary medium meant to carry any number of food combos, and in many cases, the leftovers. The pastaibilities are endless, so the next time you reach for a can of Prego, think about how those three day old tomatoes could be used to make a fantastic sauce.

5) Soup. Stock is the base ingredient in soup, so this is taking the first item and going a bit further. Any meat, fruit or veggie combined with reason and forethought can make a tasty meal. And, if you have that bag of lentils from last year wallowing in the cupboard, it is a perfect time to dust 'em off.

Start now. It's the right thing to do.

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