Thrifty fridge management | Vancouver Sun


Here are some of her tips to avoid losing valuable bites to the chaos of the fridge.

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Out of sight, out of mind. You need look no further than your refrigerator to realize the truth of that adage. If you’re like me, you feel guilty every time you throw out an overlooked food item that is past its prime and are reminded of another wise old saying: Waste not, want not.

Sherri Brooks had us in mind when she wrote, Eat It Up!: 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Buy (Perseus Books). Here are some of her tips to avoid losing valuable bites to the chaos of the fridge:

• Place all leftovers on one shelf and check it out before making your next dinner plan or shopping list.

• Take a tip from chefs and label leftovers with a “made on” or “opened on” date. Keeping a roll of painter’s tape and a marker pen in a nearby drawer makes it easy.

• Layer produce in the crisper by placing sturdy carrots, celery, apples and broccoli at the bottom, more easily bruised items such as peppers and summer squashes in the middle, and delicate greens and fresh herbs on the top.

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• Do not store dairy products and eggs in the refrigerator door. The temperature fluctuations caused by opening the door can diminish their shelf life. Instead, use the door for condiments and other good keepers.

• Yogurt, sour cream and milk do best on the lower shelves, where the air is cooler.

• Meat, too, should be stored at the lowest point in the fridge, preferably in a meat drawer. Not only are the lowest shelves the coldest (cold air sinks), but you don’t want juices from these items to drip on and contaminate other foods.

Noodle dishes are great for using up odds and ends from the refrigerator. Glass noodles, also know as cellophane noodles or Chinese vermicelli, are widely available, easy to work with and gluten-free. This recipe makes good use of vegetables that are readily available in the winter without breaking the bank.

Anna Olson’s Sichuan Spicy Greens

This is a quicker recipe if you blanch your bok choy and gai lan a day ahead. Drain vegetables well, cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container. Noodle dishes can soak up as much oil as you give them. To prevent sticking and minimize oiliness, use a non-stick pan. Adapted from Set for the Holidays with Anna Olson: Recipes to Bring Comfort and Joy by Anna Olson (Appetite by Random House).

14oz pkg. (400 g) glass noodles (mung bean or sweet potato vermicelli)

1-1/2 lb. (675 g) baby bok choy or Shanghai bok choy (about 6)

1 lb (450 g) gai lan (about 12 stalks)

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3 tbsp. (45 mL) vegetable oil, divided

5 or 6 whole Thai red chilies, sliced, or 6 to 8 peppercorns

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1-1/2 inch (3.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced and cut into julienne strips

1 tsp. (5 mL) ground coriander

1/4 tsp. (1 mL) ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. (1 mL) ground cardamom

2 cups (500 mL) finely shredded cabbage (Napa or Savoy)

3 tbsp. (50 mL) black vinegar

Dash of toasted sesame oil

Soy sauce

2 avocados, peeled and quartered, for garnish

Sesame seeds for garnish

Before cooking, have all of the vegetables prepped and at hand.

Place glass noodles in a bowl and cover with warm tap water. Let sit for 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

Trim bok choy and gai lan. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add bok choy and gai lan and blanch for one minute. Drain them in a colander and rinse under cold running water to cool. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large, non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Add chilies, shallots, garlic and ginger and stir to coat, letting shallots and garlic brown a little, about one minute.

Sprinkle on coriander, cinnamon and cardamom and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add drained noodles and cabbage and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cabbage and noodles soften. Add vinegar and sesame oil and season to taste with soy sauce. Divide noodles among 6 heated bowls.

Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add remaining 1 tbsp. vegetable oil. Add blanched bok choy and gai lan, tossing to warm through, about two minutes. Arrange the vegetables over the noodles.

Garnish each bowl with avocado, green onions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Kitchen Hack: Black Vinegar

Black vinegar looks like balsamic but it is made from rice vinegar and malt. If you can’t find it, use rice vinegar with a touch of malt vinegar. Do not substitute balsamic vinegar, as its flavour is too dominant.