Peach and Date Chutney

I don’t like to waste food. I look for ways to use leftovers and things like bones and past-their-prime vegetables and cheese. In fact, my daughter Gillian has remarked about the gross-looking, overly-hard, sometimes-green-spotted cheddar that I add (I cut away the bad parts of course!) to the macaroni-and-cheese pot. 

Using up as much as possible is a must in this economy! It’s also better for the environment.

And it stimulates creativity. I think it’s fascinating to try to figure out what to do with fennel stalks and overly-soft strawberries and stuff like that.

I grew up in the “think of the poor starving children of Europe” generation, post World War II. Something our parents would say if we didn’t want to eat something.

And I had a friend who ate peach peel sandwiches for lunch. Because that’s all there was and her Mom, who used the fruit for other purposes, didn’t want to throw out anything.

So not wasting is in some ways, an honorable thing.

I recently read that restaurant chefs are also looking more closely at how they can use scraps. Like adding scraped corn cobs to flavor vegetable stock. Or braising wilted lettuce. A day or so later, a New York Times article spoke to the same issue.

Some of the ideas that I’ve put into place over the years include these: don’t throw out the greens that comes with beets and kohlrabi. Wash them and stir-fry with garlic and raisins. Use those fennel stalks, wilted vegetables, scrubbed peels and scraped corn cobs to make vegetable stock. Crustacean shells and/or fish heads and bones are also good for stock. Squeezed lemons and limes can be cut up and used as a flavorful bed for chicken, veal and pork roasts. Soft tomatoes make fine sauce. Green tomatoes taste terrific when breaded and fried. Make chutneys with fruit that’s gone too soft for eating out of hand. Like this one, which is a delicious accompaniment for grilled meat and poultry:

Peach and Date Chutney

3-1/2 cups brown sugar

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 large onions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or use 1 tablespoon chopped serrano or jalapeno)

5 pounds ripe peaches, nectarines and/or mango, peeled and cut up

1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 cup raisins

4 ounces crystallized ginger

1/2 cup chopped dates

In a large saucepan, bring the brown sugar, cider vinegar, onions, garlic, lime juice, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cayenne pepper to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the peaches, bell pepper, raisins and ginger and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the dates and cook for another 15 minutes or until the mixture is very thick. Let cool. Refrigerate in jars or plastic containers (or preserve using a water bath according to manufacturer’s instructions). Makes 6-7 cups