Ask A Washington DC Chef: Ways To Keep Your Meals Lean And Clean

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Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Food is a topic that effects everyone. The Washington, DC area is fortunate to have access to many local farmers who make the commitment to sustainable practices to bring you the most nutritionally dense, organic ingredients in the region. Chef Joe Goetze of Founding Farmers talks a little about ways to make your meals a little greener.

Access to environmentally friendly ingredients

Any meal starts with the ingredients. Looking for options that are organic, biodynamic and locally grown decreases the carbon footprint and food miles used to get produce and meats to your kitchen. In Washington, DC, Chef Goetze recommends the year-round farmers’ markets for those who enjoy shopping for ingredients. For the ultimate in food waste reduction and connecting with your farmer, look for a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. These programs allow for a group of buyers to pay the farmer directly to grow and deliver food for them on a weekly basis. These are usually offered in the summer when the growing season is plentiful, but there are winter CSAs as well.

Chef Goetze also recommends many of the DC area’s local grocery stores. While it may not be as immediately evident that there are local, sustainably raised foods at the grocery store, take the time to ask questions about the way an item is grown or the ingredients in it. Grocery stores offer the opportunity for change to be made by voting with your dollars. Be sure to ask for items that you want to see on the shelves and most local stores will make it happen. With enough interest, the store can cater to your needs and ultimately appreciates the all-around effort to become more environmentally friendly.

Meal preparation

Chef Goetze believes that the easiest way to prepare an eco-concious meal is to look at portion size for the amount of people you’re feeding so that you can reduce food waste. Cooking in smaller batches also decreases the cooking time and therefore the amount of energy used. Another option, if baking, is to fully utilize your oven space so that you’re not wasting energy by heating an oven for only a small container. Keeping the oven door closed is extremely important, because each time you open it, you lose heat and it requires more energy (and time) to get your oven back to temperature. 

Another way to conserve food waste and energy is to pickle vegetables. Especially true in summer when there are so many items that can go bad before you eat them, pickling requires no heating other than to sterilize the jars that the pickles will be stored in. For recipes on pickling not just cucumbers but a variety of produce and making condiments and relishes, check out “The Founding Farmers Cookbook.”

Waste reduction

The quickest way to reduce waste is to make portion sizes that are appropriate for you and your family or guests, but in the event that there are leftovers, Chef Goetze recommends a few ways to reuse those ingredients. Soups and stews are by far a great way to use leftovers because they freeze well and can be reheated for a quick weeknight meal. For larger roasts like chicken or turkey, the leftover meat can be added to soups or chopped up for ingredients in your salad or a sandwich. Not sure what do with the scraps of produce or meat, including bones? You can boil them in water to make a stock that can be frozen and used in soups later. Homemade stock offers more flavor than store-bought stocks.

About Chef Joe Goetze

As Senior Executive Chef for Founding Farmers, Chef Joe Goetze manages recipe development and execution. Prior to joining The Farm team in 2004, Chef Joe was responsible for the culinary operations of the $17 million-per-year grocer and prepared Italian foods gourmet eatZi’s Market & Bakery. Chef Joe has been executing operations in kitchens and creating menus for more than a decade since he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

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Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture
Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC’s off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isnt enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamie’s traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.


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