Got a lot of Easter leftovers on the fridge? Well, me too! And it just brought me up an issue I’ve thinking about since I watched this movie: Food Waste.
I know, it’s about a faraway land called Australia and doesn’t have anything to do with us right? Well, actually it does.
I grew up hearing my mom saying the same thing your mom probably used to say to you: “You have to eat!! It’s a sin to waste food, do you have any idea on how many people in the world would give everything for a plate of food like that?? Don’t waste!”
So, leftovers on the plate are not the case, we were pretty much overwhelmed by our mom’s voices and kind of learned or should have learned to not have eyes bigger than the stomach.
But the problem is still next to us, haunting our kitchen garbage, present on the food we didn’t like, on the ingredient that had expired, the spice we bought for a special recipe and forgot on the bottom of the cabinet.
According to Jonathan Bloom, blogger and author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), Americans waste an average of almost 200 pounds of food a year. But it’s not an exclusive “luxury” of the United States. Brazil throws away about 30% of the food produced to consume and we even can’t “afford” it.
I know these numbers are pretty scary and refer to a much bigger system that includes planting, harvest, logistic, storage and so. But our acts as consumers affect directly the way producers and grocery stores expose, sell or discard their products. It’s a big snow ball and we do have a big influence on it, specially now, in a era where more and more people embrace culinary arts and get a deeper interest on food.
We don’t have to buy the freshest vegetables on the counter just because a personality chef advised you about that. The dish you are going to cook can determine the quality of the ingredient you need. What’s the matter with a not so firm mushroom if you are going to use it to prepare a cream? And why should we discard the green part of a leek just because the book says that?
Think before buying, ask your recipes some questions, and don’t be afraid, it’s all part of the cooking learning. I truly believe a conscientious consumption is the key to avoid a lot of waste and a huge contribution to lower down the numbers.
Start planning your meal, thinking about sizes and portions. This recipe, for example, can happily feed a family like mine, two adults, two kids and no leftovers. Which doesn’t stop you to measure the size of your hunger, conscientiously, of course.
Prepare the chicken: buy a whole chicken breast with strips (tender, tenderloin or whatever you prefer) in. You want to have a nice and kind of rectangular piece of meat that is easy to stuff. So, grab a good and sharp knife and, starting from the center, cut the meat just to open the strips but without disconnecting them. Season the chicken and set it aside. If you prefer, you can do that on the night before.
For the couscous, boil stock and orange juice and stir into it, cover and let it absorve the liquids for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and reserve.
Slice the mushrooms and leek. I love leeks and often use the green part. It’s a bit stronger then the white side and if you don’t like, just save it for a soup or stock, don’t throw it away.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and quickly sauté sliced mushrooms and leeks. Add couscous, mix, season with salt, pepper and add orange zests.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Open the chicken breast skin down, pour 4 to 5 tablespoons of couscous, roll it up and tie with a string.
Rub the chicken with extra olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast until skin is golden in color and internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, slice and serve with remaining couscous. I bet you won’t leave a tiny piece behind!