Rescued mushroom risotto

A few months back, I wrote an entry on stone soup, which suggested that people freeze vegetable peels and bits that they would normally compost or throw away, and then use them to make stock. If you followed that advice, you will have noticed by now that you generate a fair amount of stock. We end up making about 8 cups of it a week.

This week, I found myself with about six cups of stock to use up, and was in the mood for something heartier than soup. We also had a few oyster and porcini mushrooms that were drying up in the vegetable crisper – all of which added up to the perfect excuse to make a white wine and mushroom risotto.

I started by rehydrating the mushrooms in white wine, which not only made the mushrooms nice and plump, but also gave me a rich-coloured mushroomy liquid to start the risotto with. (Bonus! That wouldn’t happen with fresh mushrooms.) That, plus a stone soup broth that had strong corn, beet and celery notes made for a dish with a complex palette of flavours and a creamy texture. Not bad, considering that the slightly shriveled mushrooms and stock ingredients were all things that would have ended up in the bin in many homes.

Of course, we ended up with more risotto than we could eat in one sitting – but the leftovers made for very good risotto cakes.

One thing I should mention is that making risotto the old-fashioned way takes time (about 45 minutes) and much that time is spent stirring. If you don’t have time for that, you can make it in a rice cooker with a lot less fuss (there are a few recipes on-line). I’ve tried that, and the result was quite good, though not as good.

Mushroom risotto

Rescued mushroom risotto, served with faux meat balls & salad

Rescued mushroom risotto (serves 6)


  • ½ cup dried mushrooms
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups stone soup (or other) stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cover mushrooms in wine, and allow to reconstitute. This can take up to 30 minutes, depending on how dry the mushrooms were to begin with.
  • While the mushrooms are reconstituting, heat your stock in a deep skillet, and keep it warm over medium low heat.
  • When the mushrooms are reconstituted, set the liquid aside for later use. Sauté the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until they are tender – then set those aside for later use.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, then toss in the sliced onion and crushed garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent.
  • Add in the Arborio rice, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add in the liquid from the mushrooms, and stir until it the liquid absorbed.
  • Add in the warm soup stock, one ladleful at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed. When you’ve used up about ¾ of the stock, add in the mushrooms, and keep going. After each ladleful is absorbed, you should taste the risotto. When the the rice is al dente, and the sauce is creamy, it will be done. You may need a little less stock than indicated, or a little more. If you need more, and have run out, just use water that has been boiled and is still warm.
  • When the risotto is done, stir in one tablespoon of butter, the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately.
Fun facts
Amount of shriveled mushrooms saved from landfill per six portions of rescued mushroom risotto. 1/4 cup
Approximate volume of shriveled mushrooms that could be saved from landfill every year if everyone in the US had 4 servings of rescued mushroom risotto a year. 12,000 cubic meters
Approximate volume of the Tower of Pisa. 10,000 cubic meters

222 million tons: the App

The idea behind 222 million tons has always been to spark conversation and change – and to do that by sharing tips, tools, and resources that help people waste less food and eat well. So far, that’s only been through this blog, but as of last week, we have an iPad App in iTunes.

The App is a publishing platform for weekly menus and shopping lists. The recipes all work for a single person (though through the miracle of technology, they can be scaled), and use up all the fresh ingredients on the shopping lists.

The idea was Bonnie Lee’s, and emerged out of her frustration over the amount of food she was wasting when she first moved from Tokyo to Los Angeles. She was overwhelmed by the quantities that food was sold in, and had no idea how a single person could use it all before it spoiled. In Japan, there are home economics magazines that help people save money by providing weekly shopping lists and recipes, but she couldn’t find anything like that in L.A. – and all the recipes she could find served 6 to 12 people. Bonnie Lee doesn’t like leftovers … so she issued me a challenge, which led to this App, built by our friends & partners at bluejava: Glenn & Makiko.

The first collection of recipes is called Bright & Bold, and was written by me (more on that another day), but my hope is that the 222 millions tons App will become a platform on which a large community of home cooks shares recipes – and if anyone reading this is interested in becoming part of that community, let me know via the comments below, or through any of the community platforms listed on my Gravatar profile.

The key to reducing food waste at home is planning – and as I wrote Bright & Bold, I came to appreciate the challenge of planning whole weeks for a single person with both variety and zero waste. So, if you don’t have time to plan meals, but hate waste and like to eat well … well, now there’s an App that can help.

Dry vegetable curry with cauliflower leaves & stems

One way to minimize waste is to have a few go-to recipes for the unused odds and bits that accumulate in the vegetable crisper. One of mine is dry vegetable curry. It’s a quick and tasty way to cook up whatever vegetables you have on hand.

This past the weekend I made some roasted cauliflower florets, which meant that I had a cauliflower stem and some cauliflower leaves to use up – and those made up the bulk of my most recent dry curry. I also threw in a couple of carrots, mushrooms, and plum tomatoes, as well as a few green beans and part of an onion.

In case you’ve spent your life blithely throwing away cauliflower stems and leaves, let me just point out a few things:

  • Cauliflower stems and leaves are food.
  • My most recent cauliflower weighed about 2 lbs 9 oz, and of that 9 ounces was made up of stem and leaves. That’s 22% of the cauliflower. If you’ve spent your life throwing these parts away (and if we use that 22% as an average), then for every 9 cauliflowers you’ve ever bought, you’ve thrown away 2 cauliflowers worth of perfectly usable food that you paid for. You probably don’t do this with donuts. Or socks.
  • Cauliflower stems may be less pretty than florets, but they taste similar, and are very tender. I usually just cut the big central stem in half, then cut those halves into slices.
  • Cauliflower leaves are very tender and thin at the tips, and cook up like any leafy green. Near the base, the leaves are more like cabbage, but more watery (which balances hot spices nicely) and not as tough.

I served this week’s dry curry with some turmeric rice and watermelon rind chutney (which we’re close to running out of). Easy. Tasty.

Dry vegetable curry (for 1)

Dry vegetable curry


  • Enough oil to grease your skillet
  • 1 cup mixed chopped vegetables
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind paste (or 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • ¾ tsp dry curry mix (see below)

Dry curry mix (these days)

  • 2 parts cumin
  • 2 parts paprika
  • 2 parts turmeric
  • 2 parts mustard powder
  • 1 part garam masala
  • 1 part cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 part cinnamon
  • 1 part brown sugar
  • 1 part salt (or to taste)


Sauté the vegetables over medium heat in oil until just shy of desired tenderness. OK, this is vague, but the timing depends on the vegetables you use, the size you cut them, and how tender you like them. Also, you’ll want to add things that take longer to cook a little earlier. I like my vegetables crunchy, so this step usually takes me 4 or 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic and ginger, and sauté for an additional 30 seconds.

Add in the tamarind paste (or lemon), vinegar, and dry curry spice mix, and stir until vegetables are coated.


Fun facts
Annual per capita demand for cauliflower in the US 1.7 lbs
Total annual demand for cauliflower in the US 264,853 short tons
Unnecessary food waste created if no one in the US eats cauliflower stems & leaves (assuming they represent 22% of mass of cauliflowers) 58,267 short tons
Equivalent number of 2lb 9oz cauliflowers 45,476,682
Cargo mass of a Boeing 747-8F 295,800 lbs
Minimum number of Boeing 747-8Fs needed carry all that waste 394

Stone soup dahl

About a month ago, I wrote an entry on what I call stone soup. The recipe in that entry is simple:

…whenever I peel or chop vegetables or meats, I toss any bits that would usually be destined for the compost or garbage bin into a colander, wash them, then put them in a container in the freezer.  When I want to make stock, I throw the stone-like frozen scraps into water and boil.

As one friend noted, though, “Ive started my stone soup freezer bag! Once you start, it grows quickly!” Very quickly – and the challenge is to find varied ways to use up all that stock (we end up making about 8 cups of it every weekend). Last week, I did something based on this great dahl recipe from  Wolfgang Puck, and it’s definitely a keeper.

For the version I made, I used brown lentils, rather than orange ones – and stone soup stock rather than chicken stock. The stock that week was made with a healthy amount of beet peelings, and was dark colored with earthy tones, which worked perfectly in this recipe. I served the dahl with some homemade dosa (a rice and lentil batter pancake), kale salad, a spicy coleslaw, and some watermelon rind chutney – a satisfying, warming meal.

One thing to note: unless you’re catering a wedding, I suggest that you make about a quarter of the recipe at the link. That makes about 4 normal sized servings.