Sometimes, I buy a bag of potatoes at the grocery store for no reason. I mean, obviously they’re for eating (or making potato batteries, potato stamps, or unscrewing a broken light bulb), but I buy them without any particular recipe in mind. Sometimes we blow through them. Baked potatoes make great lunches. Potato salad is one of the eight recipes my husband likes to make. But other times, they sit in the cupboard and wait. And wait and wait and wait. Eventually, I find myself scrambling to make something with five pounds of potatoes before they rot.
That was me yesterday. Plus I had a half-used tub of ricotta and a half-shredded ball of mozzarella. Marinara in the pantry. Half a wedge of Parmesan. About ten minutes later (maybe twenty, since the baby woke up from her nap halfway through and I had to do much of the layering with a cranky kid on my hip–a chunk of Parmesan rind makes a tasty and effective teething toy, by the way) I’d sliced about two pounds of potatoes with my Japanese mandolin and assembled something like a lasagna.
It was delicious. Even my kids thought so. Cheese, potatoes, tomato sauce–what’s not to like? And it was one of those dishes I felt kind of proud about, even though it took minimal effort, because I managed to cook something before it went bad. In this case, a couple somethings.
When I first learned to cook, I wasted a lot of food because after I’d used a cup or a tablespoon for a recipe, I didn’t know what to do with the rest. I often tried. Say I had half a pineapple left from making pork and pineapple kebabs. I’d go online and find a recipe to use it up (pineapple salsa!) and then end up with leftover cilantro, which I’d put into rogan josh, which would leave me with a chunk of fresh ginger, unless of course I had a chunk left from marinating those kebabs and was smart enough to peel it and put it in the freezer. But mostly, I’d stare at the pineapple for days thinking I should use that every time I grabbed a carrot from the crisper until it turned to a sweet-smelling mush. Or it would be the cilantro that got left behind, especially since I was and am useless at remembering those final fresh herb mix-ins or garnishes. I had a hard time keeping up. And while I definitely felt guilty about the waste (did you know that in America, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted?), I also lamented my inability to improvise. Continue reading “Potato “Lasagna” and the Art of Using Your Groceries”