The Dump

I used to complain to my wife about the fact that her sister — a caterer — would often drop by and “gift” us large quantities of food leftover from one of her jobs. There would be big Glad bags of pasta salads, large chunks of picked over cheese and half cakes.

I called it “the Dump,” and came to resent coming home to discover a fridge full of leftovers from someone-I-didn’t-know’s wedding that I was now responsible for either eating or assuming the guilt of throwing away.

Heirloom tomato & corn risotto with parmesan scallops, straciatella

Heirloom tomato & corn risotto with parmesan scallops, stracciatella

We don’t see her sister often these days, and it’s probably been nearly a decade since we last received a drop off. But our friends, Kristine and Simon, just moved to Lake Tahoe, and were back in Topanga to pack up. We invited them to dinner, and Kristine showed up with a canvas bag full of stuff.

“I brought you some things from our freezer!” she declared philanthropically.

In her duffle were various frozen packages of potstickers and dumplings, large bags of corn and spinach, pumpkin ice cream and other iced-over delights. Ironically, I’d spent the better part of the last couple weeks trying to cook with forgotten things from the depths of my own freezer to try to create a little space. So this was most unwelcome timing. I managed an unenthusiastic, “Uhh. Thanks!”

And the old feelings of resentment began to creep back in…

I managed to stuff it all in, minus a package of edamame nuggets I opted to incorporate into the dinner. And once again, the freezer would barely open. But rather than feel defeated by the incursion, I decided I would view it as a creative challenge and try to get through the stuff as fast as possible.

The pumpkin ice cream, sporting a frosty glaze of freezer burn, was a cinch — it went straight into the garbage. The dumplings, too, would be easy, as I frequently keep them in the freezer for the kids when we have guests for dinner and happened to be out anyway. It would be the frozen vegetables that would provide the greatest challenge. Besides frozen peas, which rock, I tend to prefer fresh vegetables.

I resolved to get to work on the project immediately. The first evening after the Dump, I decided to make stracciatella — my favorite Roman soup — with some fresh chicken stock I’d made that day. The spinach would be perfect. Whipping some fresh eggs for the “little rags,” I folded in the spinach, some parmesan and semolina flour and a bit of grated nutmeg, all of which floated into the soup to create a super dumpling which I then teased apart into rags.

Meanwhile, I was also making a risotto with tomatoes from our garden that I was going to serve with scallops and fried zucchini blossoms — when inspiration struck! There was even more I could get rid of — the corn!!! Into the rice went a third of the first of two large bags of corn, a perfect sweet foil to the acidic tomatoes and textural contrast to the creamy rice.

In one evening, I’d knocked out a bag and a third of frozen vegetables. I felt encouraged.

The project continues. I got rid of more corn the following evening making a sweet corn reduction for some soft shell crabs. And if I can’t figure out a solution for the remaining bag and a half of corn kernels, there’s always the chickens…


*    *    *

Heirloom tomato & corn risotto with parmesan-seared scallops
serves 2

6 scallops
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. grated parmesan
1/2 cup risotto
4 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
8 – 10 heirloom cherry or plum tomatoes
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup stock
1 cup white wine
pinch saffron threads
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cream
salt & pepper to taste

Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until translucent — about 2 minutes. Add rice and toast, stirring, for another minute. Add 1 cup water and cooking, stirring occasionally, until evaporated.  Then add another cup of water. Cook until evaporated.

Continue in this manner, next using stock and then wine. Total cooking time should be about 20 minutes. When you’ve added the wine, also add saffron, tomatoes and corn. Cook down wine, and if rice is not cooked through, add another cup of water and cook down. Once rice tastes cooked to all dente, remove from heat and stir in butter, 1/4 cup parmesan and cream. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes.

While the risotto is resting, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Dust each scallop lightly with parmesan. Sear each scallop in the pan about 1 minute per side, until parmesan is browned and fragrant. Remove from heat.

Scoop some risotto onto each of two plates, and top each with three scallops. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan Finley
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 00:11:50

    Nice writing!



  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 01:36:56

    Better make room in your freezer for some incoming meat! Also I’m happy to see you too are a fan of frozen peas. I actually don’t mind frozen corn depending on the application (soups, stews, etc) but I LOVE me some frozen peas.


    • scolgin
      Aug 29, 2014 @ 02:02:05

      As you might guess, I’m frantically trying to clear space in my tiny freezer — and people gifting me bags of corn doesn’t help! Yeah, frozen peas are in the Top 10 Most Important Pantry Items, for sure.


  3. Andrea Cleall
    Aug 29, 2014 @ 03:33:05

    Corn goes in a chowder with potatoes, and clams or fish.


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