My food-centric world means I wake up thinking about what I’ll make for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I don’t even have to wake up because I dream about pulling things from the pantry to make a great, sustainable meal from seemingly thin air. It’s a laser focus that sometimes clouds my judgment about what a well-stocked larder should comprise.

My college-age son was home recently and wanted to whip up some Spaghetti Aglio et Olio for lunch, an economical Italian dish he prepares often on his student budget that includes just five ingredients: pasta, olive oil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. “You have red pepper flakes, right, Momma?” Of course, I do, silly! The Italian kind. The French Espelette kind. The Turkish Urfa and Marash kinds. The Chinese Szechuan kind. And the Syrian Aleppo kind.

This anecdote illustrates that my normal is overkill for many other cooks. My inclusion of an out-of-the-ordinary ingredient in a Green Plate Special recipe, therefore, could be contributing to the same food waste problem the column seeks to help solve. Without intending to, perhaps I’ve required readers to make an extra trip to the store for a bottle of something they’ll use just use a couple of tablespoons of before the bottle gets pushed to the back of cupboard and sits there unused.

As a food writer, though, I do believe it’s my job to introduce readers to new and interesting flavors they might not find on their own. A British cooking magazine called “Delicious” runs a back page spread every month in which editors give readers tips on tricks on how to use up any and all specialty ingredients the recipes in that issue require. Their feature is called “Loose Ends.” The new weekly sidebar to this column that serves to both inspire cooks and contain food waste will be called “No Loose Ends.” Check it out.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at [email protected]

The completed dish: Owen’s Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Bowl. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Owen’s Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Bowl

The advantage to teaching a kid to cook is that he will eventually cook for you. My son adapted a banh mi sandwich recipe from Vietnamese food expert Andrea Ngyuyen into this meat-light, vegetable-heavy rice bowl.

Serves 4

1 small kohlrabi or daikon radish, cut into matchsticks

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

Granulated sugar

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 large garlic clove, grated

1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste

2 boneless chicken thighs

Vegetable oil

2 cups cooked rice

1 cucumber, sliced

1 cup shredded cabbage

1/2 cup mixed soft herbs (basil, mint and cilantro)

To make the pickled vegetables, put the kohlrabi and carrots in a bowl and toss with the salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse the vegetables with water, drain in a mesh strainer or colander, and press or shake to expel excess water. Transfer the vegetables and sliced chili pepper to a pint jar.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1/4 cup sugar with the vinegar and 1/2 cup warm water until dissolved. Pour the liquid into the jar to cover the vegetables, let sit for 1 hour. These will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Stir together the garlic, five-spice powder, honey, hoisin, soy sauce, ketchup, sesame oil, sambal oelek and 2 tablespoon water in a medium bowl. Remove 1/4 cup of the mixture and set it aside for garnishing the finished dish. Add the chicken to the bowl, coating the pieces well. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Lightly oil a stove-top grill pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 6 to 10 minutes, turning several times, until it is cooked through. Transfer to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing it thinly on the bias.

To assemble the bowl, divide the rice among 4 bowls. Top each serving of rice with a quarter of the chicken, the pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cabbage and herbs. Drizzle with reserved sauce and serve.


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