by Agnes Krup

Lately, I have tried to be less wasteful. This has not been easy, because – not to brag – it’s probably fair to say that nothing much is being wasted in my house to begin with. Shoes get reheeled, buttons sewn back on, socks darned (okay, only favorite socks). We recycle whatever we can, turn off the lights when we leave a room, compose shopping lists on the back of old envelopes.

And yet. In lean times, I feel the need to be even more mindful of every single item passing through my household. This holds especially true for our food. I am not very willing to compromise on the quality; what we eat is organic and, whenever possible, comes from the local farmer’s market. Which is all the more reason to be respectful of it.

The other day, the vegetables I prepared for our dinner were sautéed fennel (for me) and broccoli (my daughter’s almost daily staple). After the meal, I looked at the remains that had accumulated in the kitchen. There was the hard, white interior of the fennel bulb, together with the darker shoots. There were the thick, hard broccoli stems. And there were also, steamed and tender, the upper parts of the stems, since my daughter has a tendency to only nibble off the florets and decorate her plate with the rest of her greens.

Not for the first time I wished for a compost – not really an option, alas, given our very limited New York space. But somehow what was before me on the cutting board, what I had trimmed off the produce we had eaten, didn’t even look like it should be thrown out. There was too much of it and it seemed too fresh, too edible. My grandmother, I was certain of it, would never, ever have put all this on the compost. At which point I suddenly remembered the bunch of flat-leaved parsley languishing in my fridge’s vegetable drawer.

Parsley seems to be coming in huge bunches these days, at a reasonable price, provided that you don’t waste any of it, but it’s hard not to waste any, given the quantity. There was so much of it, in fact, that I quickly realized that I would need to wash it in my salad spinner.

The stems of the parsley, chopped into inch-long pieces, went into a soup pot, as did the cut-up leftovers from the fennel bulb and the thick broccoli stems. An hour later, the ingredients were truly ready for the compost, but not without having warranted more than a quart of very tasty vegetable stock.

As for the parsley leaves – I gave them a quick chop and tossed them into the blender. Together with the upper parts of the broccoli stems, some garlic, olive oil, salt and half a handful of pine nuts. I also found a small rest of arugula in the back of the fridge that looked to be on the brink of wilting – in it went.

Out came enough intensely flavored and intensely green pesto to freeze in three portions. One to go over a risotto (prepared with some of the fennel broth). One definitely for a pasta dish. And one, perhaps, as a crust for next Sunday’s chicken breast?

Three meals. Less waste. I had a feeling that even my grandmother would have been proud of me.

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