Found Food and Countertop Compost


I had a roommate once who called a dish I was making Refrigerator Compost. I basically looked in the fridge and found things that had to be cooked right away, mixed them with leftovers and possibly some milk or eggs and spices and boiled or baked it. Doesn’t everybody do that? Surely that’s how dumplings, and quiche and any number of other aggregate foods came to be invented, because for much of human history food was sparse and anything that didn’t get eaten the first time you prepared it was kept for the next round (and you did what you could to prevent any germs accrued in the mean time from killing you).

This week I took my kids berry picking at one of the big U-pick farms on Sauvie Island. Blueberry season is still well on, but the raspberries were pretty much done. But I love raspberries and hadn’t made it out to pick them at their peak, so I dragged my kids down the rows of sun scorched brambles to see what we could find. We came up with a decent haul (as well a plenty of blueberries and peaches). And the kids demanded corn, so we grabbed a few ears.IMG_0044

Late raspberries are sweet but even more fragile than normal, so they started to fall to bits the minute we got them home. I remembered as a kid that I was sort of obsessed with the Coolwhip and Jello pies that appeared on ads in Reader’s Digest and the Sunday paper Parade Magazine insert. They were always in these beautiful pastels with fluffy white layers of whip. There was never anything like that at our house. I used to try to get Dad to buy Coolwhip and premade graham cracker pie crusts but he held all premade foods in contempt and besides had very little cultural concept of pie.

As an adult I have not the slightest desire to consume Coolwhip, but I think I’ve heard of something called “icebox pie”. I’m not sure if it’s made in the freezer, but I figured it should be. After getting my kids home from the berry patch I didn’t have the fortitude to go to the store, but I found an unopened package of cream cheese in the fridge, put it in the mixer with about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and the small leftover bowl of milk sitting on the kitchen table from my four year old’s breakfast. She’d picked out almost all of the shredded wheat. A little vanilla and almond extract, a couple handfuls of the red IMG_0046raspberries, some whipping and presto: pretty pink stuff. I put it in the freezer (without having to take anything already in there out, though it was a close call)

I also had a pre-made pie crust that I picked up because they were cheap at Grocery Outlet. I was excited that I was able to form the edges in little points. Then I put it under the broiler. When the crust cooled, I whipped pink stuff again briefly, put it in the pie shell, decorated the top with some of the rest of the day’s haul and put it in the fridge. This last bit was a mistake. I should have put it back in the freezer. It’s too runny when served from the fridge, although I think the IMG_0050flavor is better at lower temperature. I bet those pies that had had gelatin in them were less runny.

While the pie was not freezing, I turned to the corn. I wanted fresh corn salad and didn’t have black beans or salsa. (I also didn’t know that corn ears sometimes grew this other little grass top structure). I sliced the corn off the ears and threw it a bowl with the other leftovers that had been sitting on the table all day: part of a roasted beet from our garden and a rather over-grown woodyIMG_0045 cucumber from my husband’s colleague’s garden. They had been marinating in balsamic and olive oil since dinner the night before. I also found two sungold cherries ripe on our vines and a bunch of volunteer lemon-basil that came up in random parts of the vegetable beds from last years plantings.

It was really good. The kids were not fans, but that meant more for me. I had the last of it for breakfast the next day.


[served with left over pulled pork, left over beans converted to dip, and tortillas and cheese that had NOT be previously served or prepared]

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