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On Monday it was announced that the federal government will be banning single use plastic by 2021, at the earliest. When I first heard the news I had so many thoughts.
After I got over the initial need to roll on the floor laughing at the prime minister’s complete blunder when asked how his family was going to curb their wasteful use of plastic, I was torn between laughter and shame that the very man making the announcement clearly hadn’t given any thought whatsoever about how he could make a better impact.
It felt to me like the equivalent of your overweight personal trainer inhaling a doughnut while yelling at you to work harder between gasps for air. Then it got me to thinking about whether or not the Liberals would be in power by then, and if not, would whatever party that is in power follow through with this ambitious goal.
All kidding aside, this initiative really intrigues me.
As a chef, the idea of waste is loathsome. I literally spend my days managing waste, ensuring every scrap of vegetable is used, every gram of butter is scraped from the wrapper, and every minute of a person’s time is used most efficiently.
It’s so ingrained in me that I find myself looking for the most efficient path in every aspect of my life. Then I think about how we live today vs. how we did even 20 years ago, and I can’t help but wonder, for all of the advancements we’ve made, are we in a better place as a society today, then we were back then.
I’ve lived in the same house for 11 years, and in that time, we have replaced the dishwasher four times. The last repairman who came flat out told me that most machines are built to last two years now and it’s cheaper to go out and buy a new machine then to try to repair an old one.
He even went as far as to suggest I find a 20-30 year old unit on Kijiji and repair that instead, because it was built to last. Our phones are built to barely make it until our phone plans expire.
Computer printers, made almost entirely out of plastic, are cheaper than the price of the ink that goes into it. Everything we purchase seems to be packed in layer upon layer of “protective” plastic, keeping us out of the very thing we want to get into it, for our own safety, of course.
Then, I think about the idea of recycling programs. I’ve become much less optimistic of late that much of what goes in our blue bins actually ends up being recycled, especially when I hear the news of our waste and recycling material being shipped to China.
Just the other day I had to dispose of some bar stools that I just couldn’t re-purpose or find a suitable home for. In doing so, I made the trip to the Eco Station, and while unloading the stools I noticed that the bin next to me had China Shipping written right along the outside.
I don’t profess to be the smartest guy around, but the idea of sending our unwanted stuff halfway around the world to one of the worst environmental countries in the world seems like a cheap way to do away with our problems than it does to actually solve them.
Over a year ago we made the decision at Workshop to do away with plastic straws. I’ll be honest, it was as much about cost savings as it was about saving the planet.
Why did we need plastic straws when we were serving our beverages in perfectly clean glasses?
While this move is a very tiny step in the right direction, it’s a drop in the bucket of what we need to do to change. It is going to take a push from government, it’s going to take the support of industry and a willingness to change, and it’s going to take a concerted effort from all of us to make an actual impact. So, while I don’t always agree with the Prime Minister’s choices, I applaud the government for trying to do something to move us in the right direction.
Here’s a simple tomato salad to enjoy. While you may not be able to tell in the picture, this basic dish is about managing waste and being efficient with our use of everything we have.
We use fresh tomatoes, but we also use tomatoes once their ripeness reaches its peak by oven drying them. That preserves their integrity and intensifies their flavour.
We even use our excess cherry tomatoes and roast them at high heat, to turn them into tomato raisins, with a brightness and pop of acidity.
The pesto puree uses up the zucchini that aren’t so “pretty” but still packed full of flavour, while also using up our day old basil, that starts to soften after being picked from the garden, but is still chock full of flavour.
We make our own ricotta, saving the whey to poach fish with.
It’s our attempt at being efficient in the work that we do and the ingredients we are blessed to work with. To me, if we all took that approach in everything we consume we would go a long way to resolve some of our greatest environmental issues.
I won’t take you through every tedious step, as making a tomato salad at home shouldn’t take hours, but a few little touches can make yours that much more unique
Tomato & Ricotta Salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 hours (inactive)
Special Tools: a baking sheet, parchment paper, a sharp knife
Makes: A nice salad for a family of four
4 ea. vine-ripened tomatoes (keep them out of the fridge for best flavour)
1 ea. vine-ripened tomato (for dried chips)
½ pint cherry tomatoes (feel free to use heirloom varieties, or different colours!)
½ cup fresh ricotta
¼ cup fresh basil pesto
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
15-20 ea. fresh basil leaves
- Begin by preparing the tomato chips, I like to do this when I am done with the oven for the day, turning it to off, but relying on the residual heat, and then the pilot light, to slowly dry them out, they will “cook” overnight
- Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly grease with olive oil
- Using a sharp knife, core the tomato, then slice it as thin as you can, while keeping the shape of it
- Lay the slices on the baking sheet and season well with salt and pepper
- Place in the oven once it’s off and let dry until crisp, anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on how thick you sliced and how hot your oven was when you started, don’t stress too much, as there is some leeway
- Remove them from the oven and take from the pan, you can store these in an airtight container for 2-3 days if need be
- About thirty minutes before you want to eat the salad, set the oven to 450F
- Line the sheet pan with parchment
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place on the baking sheet, cut side up
- Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil
- Bake in the oven until roasted and slightly shriveled, 10-12 minutes
- Remove from the heat and let cool
- When ready to serve, smear the pesto on your plate
- Slice the tomatoes into slices, wedges, whatever is your favourite shape, mix it up
- Fan the tomatoes out on the plate
- Season well with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil
- Garnish with ricotta, dried tomato chips, tomato raisins, and fresh basil
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