EDF, Down Under

AMA reader Nancy Owens is a Boston native currently living in Canberra, Australia, where she writes about her Australian adventures, food and otherwise at Roving Lemon. She ate down her Down Under fridge last week to file the following report.

I’ve been the person responsible for filling (and emptying) fridges on three continents.

That sounds exotic and adventurous, doesn’t it?

The contents of Nancy Owens's fridge in Canberra, Australia. (Nancy Owens)

Sometimes it is…. And then there’s the everyday reality: Every one of those fridges seems to have a half-empty bag of carrots perpetually lurking in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. No matter where I’ve lived (first Boston, then Oxford, U.K., and now Canberra), I do the same thing: buy bags of carrots (because they’re cheaper that way than buying individual carrots, and you never know when you might need one), and then take forever to use them up, so that they start to get shriveled and funny-looking and not really appetizing. Then I either force myself to eat them anyway, or else I throw them away and feel guilty afterwards.

Until now. As soon as I heard about the Eating Down the Fridge challenge, I thought of my current, Australian bag of neglected carrots, and a great tip I had read recently on another Canberra blog: that if you put shriveled carrots in ice water for a while, they would rejuvenate—to the point where they would even taste good raw! Here was the perfect opportunity to try it out. So the other day I did, and threw some droopy celery and a wilted scallion in the bowl for good measure.

It worked! All three of them perked up noticeably, and formed the basis for a Thai-flavored stir-fry. I used a recipe from Donna Hay (an Australian cookbook writer) for the basic procedure, and then worked with what I had on hand. The scallion went in first, with an onion from the cupboard and some brown sugar, to sauté in some light olive oil (not very Asian, but what I had). I followed with the carrot and celery, cut into fat matchsticks, and a red pepper that had been hiding under the carrots, chopped to about the same size. I cooked a little longer than a typical stir-fry, to al dente consistency rather than crisp-tender.

Nancy's creation, inspired by a wilted bag of carrots. (Nancy Owens)

Meanwhile, I boiled up some water to cook the remainder of a packet of rice noodles that had been sitting in the cupboard since November; chopped up some chicken left over from dinner last week; dug out the bag of roasted unsalted cashews I bought to cook just these kinds of dishes (and forget to use half the time); picked a few Thai basil leaves from the plant on my balcony (yes, it’s late summer here); and made a quick sauce of equal parts lime juice, soy and fish sauces. Mixed it all together in the hot pan and I had a delicious, colorful, one-dish dinner -- inspired by EDF and limp carrots.

Still stumped on what to whip up from the larder? Stump me today at 1 ET for What's Cooking, Eating Down Fridge Edition. Joining me at the table are guest bloggers Julia Watson and Eddie Gehman Kohan, of Obama Foodorama.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 12, 2009; 11:59 AM ET Eating Down the Fridge
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I've a chicken in the fridge -- one of those already cooked (and mostly eaten) jobbies. Am going out of town. Can you make stock with a cooked chicken?

Posted by: Kinzer1 | March 12, 2009 1:21 PM

Kinzer1, I do it all the time--the final destination of every chicken carcass in my house is the stockpot, accompanied by a chopped carrot, celery stalk, and onion.

Posted by: njdmarston | March 12, 2009 3:45 PM

kinzer1, the only caution I'd take is to assess just how seasoned (or salty) that prepared chicken is. If it's super salty, that means the stock will be too. Just something to keep in mind.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2009 4:06 PM

As part of EDF in our house this week, we thawed one chicken that I knew was of fairly recent vintage, one that was suspect but turned out to be fine other than some freezer burn on the skin - and the frozen carcasses of two rotisserie chickens. It's the bones of the chicken that give the stock most of the flavor so kinzer1, definitely recycle that thing! EDF week has not been hard at all in our house and actually sort of fun. Unlike a lot of posters here, I'm not finding too many unknown bags and bits of things like I did back in December when our power was out for days. Have to say that I sure haven't missed going to the grocery store. But, running out of wine or coffee would be a BIG problem!

Posted by: ipayattention | March 12, 2009 4:24 PM

Yum. I think challenges like this are so wonderful because they challenge our imagination as well as our skills. Thanks for sharing the ice water trick.

Posted by: esleigh | March 13, 2009 12:10 PM

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