This Gardener’s Pie recipe is my tribute to the would-otherwise-be-wasted ugly vegetables in my Imperfect Produce box last week.
The food recovery startup Imperfect Produce first came on my radar when I saw its CEO and COO speak at a Food +Tech Connect meetup here in San Francisco. The two spoke about their company’s multi-part mission to 1) reduce food waste while simultaneously 2) generating extra revenue for farmers via 3) making produce more affordable for all. How does Imperfect accomplish this? By offering consumers the chance to buy delicious but cosmetically challenged produce at a discount.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United States is wasting up to 40% of its food. If you care about sustainability and the conservation of natural resources, food waste is something you should be aware of and working to reduce. So, I’ve signed up to receive a box of vegetables sourced by Imperfect Produce that would not otherwise find a home with paying customers and ultimately in grateful bellies.
I opt for Imperfect Produce’s organic box each week in the hopes that I am contributing less to the use of chemicals and pesticides in agricultural use, and getting the rescued vegetables box each week makes me optimistic that I am helping to alleviate food waste in the United States. Every bit of effort counts!
What efforts can you make to fight food waste?
Meal plan. This is common sense and helps to cut your food waste by ensuring you have a plan for every ingredient that you purchase. Meal prep. Again, common sense… you’re less likely to go out for a restaurant meal after a tiring day (instead of making use of what you’ve previously bought) if your food is already cooked and waiting for you.Set up an “Eat Me First” refrigerator section. I saw this trick recently in the great food waste documentary Just Eat It, and it’s so great: designate a high-visibility (right up front) area of your fridge as the “eat me first” section. Put everything that you notice is close to spoiling in that area, and practice making meals of entirely those ingredients.Check if Imperfect Produce is available in your zip code. If not, sign up with your email and zip code to let them know you’re interesting in rescued produce in your area.
Now the fun part: using the contents of the Imperfect Produce box in a recipe. I christened this concoction of curried vegetables a “gardener’s pie” since it’s a meatless version of pot pie or cottage/shepherd’s pie.
I complemented the orange color of the curried base of onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and chard with a simple blanket of purple sweet potatoes, lightly salted and piped into ribbons with a pastry bag and frosting tip. You can simply mash the purple sweet potatoes and spread them over the filling with a fork or knife to save time and still approximate the vibrant look.
Peel the onions, and chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Finely mince the garlic (or use a garlic press). Heat the tablespoon of coconut oil in a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat.
While the onions cook, peel and chop the potatoes and sweet potato. Once the onions are beginning to soften and become translucent, add the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the potatoes, sweet potato, broth, curry powder, and salt. Raise the heat under the skillet to medium-high and bring the broth to a simmer. Cook the curried mixture until the potatoes/sweet potatoes are soft and the broth has mostly boiled off. The texture should be thick and sticky.
Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, and chopped chard. Stir to thoroughly combine, then allow to cook until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes are softened. Remove from the heat and transfer to a pie plate/pan.
To make the purple sweet potato topping, cook the large purple sweet potato, wrapped in a damp paper towel, on high in the microwave for 8-12 minutes until very soft when pierced with a fork. Remove to a plate, and allow to cool enough to touch. Gently work the skin off of the sweet potato, then transfer it to a bowl and add salt to taste. Mash with a fork (or use a hand mixer, if you intend to use a frosting tip) then spread over the top of the filling. Finish with a sprinkle of red chili flakes and fresh parsley.