Lately I’ve been hearing lots of trash talk, especially from my 2-year-old son. Like most kids his age, he repeats everything we say, including the times one of us (who shall remain nameless) has pronounced a 4-letter word. We quickly cleaned up our potty-mouths, but he’s still obsessed with the trash talk – literally !
I really do mean it literally (unlike W. M. Thackeray). Mornings begin in our household with the sanitation truck grinding through our street, its whirling lights flashing into our apartment windows. Already our kids are jumping up and down in their side-by-side beds, singing gleefully and in both languages, just in case we – and our neighbors – couldn’t understand them : “Trash truck ! Trash truuuuuck !!! Poubelle ! Camion poubelle !!”
Dream come true
Once we were even woken in the middle of the night by our son, who yelled out from his sleep “Poubelle !” I guess he was having the child’s equivalent of a sexy dream. Guess what ? His dream came true when the Service de Propreté de Paris kindly gifted us these tiny Parisian trash cans and two little bonshommes who clean the streets. (Note their plastic brooms designed to imitate the twig-bundle brooms of yesteryear.)
For the Ville de Paris,the obsession with trash began in 2010, when the city signed a charter designed to reduce food waste by 50% between 2010 and 2020, and the last few years have seen a doubling-down on the efforts. This means that Parisians, in effect, are being bludgeoned with a “less waste” campaign. Everywhere you go, you see a reference to la lutte anti-gaspillage or zéro déchets (zero waste).
According to the Ville de Paris, our trash has doubled in volume in the last 75 years. And the average Parisian, per year, produces 457 kilograms of waste (that’s more than a thousand pounds).
So back in December, in order to address the gastronomic excesses of the holiday season, the city sent me an e-mail with anti-gaspi tips, explaining how to celebrate no-waste holidays. Among its mostly helpful astuces, the document encouraged us to eat more lightly during the holidays, right after listing all the mouth-watering foods French people normally eat during that time.
Cooking class for 85 people
I’m not sure that’s an effective tactic : “Salmon, scallops, foie gras, oysters, terrines, chocolate, roasted meats, gratins, cheese, yule log…. Succulent foods but too rich and too numerous.” Before the holidays, it was hard to envision cutting back on those delicious foods. Even now, rereading the list just makes my mouth water all over again.
Less mouth-watering were the transportation strikes that began in the beginning of December. They prevented a chef friend of mine from making his way into the city from his outer lying suburb. So he called me on a Monday, to teach a class on Thursday – for 85 people. GLOUPS !
Challenge accepted !
There would be four chefs, I found out, but even if the class wasn’t challenge enough, we had an additional obstacle : the theme was – you guessed it – anti-gaspi ! Vegetable peels, pumpkin guts, egg whites : all waste would be weighed at the end of the challenge using a gachimètre or waste-meter. Encore gloups !
Challenge accepted ! I worked with the fantastic Chef Dev (of Paris Curry) — that’s us on the right — to fine-tune the first-course recipe before the event, and we discussed at length the different ways to reuse our kitchen waste. (And the biggest challenge of all : how to get those sozzled class participants to actually turn out ravioloni for 85 diners.)
Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle
The evening took place in a former marble factory in nearby Montreuil, and it was kicked off by Jérémy, a (handsome !) registered dietician, who talked about how to reduce waste in the kitchen. Then it was au boulot – we got to work ! In 1½ hours, we turned out our Pumpkin-hazelnut Ravioloni served in a house-made vegetable broth.
While we cooked, we explained the “eco-gestures” to Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle our kitchen waste : the cleaned squash seeds can be roasted and salted for a tasty snack, and the squash peelings can be simmered in water to make a secondary (if not a little sweetish) bouillon in which you simmer the ravioloni. Find the other tips we gave in the recipe’s introduction below.
Merci Monsieur Poubelle
Even though the holidays are well behind us, the lutte continues : the City of Paris’ message is clear, and the anti-waste communication is omni-present, with documents like this one giving Parisians tips for recycling, composting, and even how to organize the inside of your refrigerator to better preserve your cold foods.
I’ve even noticed something around my area that makes me want to talk trash (almost) as much as my son : our newly-renovated plaza in front of the 20th district’s town hall features beautiful new trash cans, gorgeous Art Nouveau-style gems. And we have Monsieur Poubelle to thank for the invention of the trash can in Paris – merci ! Who knew his late 19th century work would be reinvented for the 21st century, in an early 20th century style ?
This recipe features homemade (or almost !) pumpkin-filled pasta bathing in an aromatic broth and topped with roasted hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, and herbs. Yum ! Ravioloni are simply a larger version of ravioli, according to this fascinating article which discusses different pasta shapes.
If you don’t want to make the fresh pasta sheets yourself – perfectly understandable – you can use one of two chef’s shortcuts. I was able to buy fresh sheets of pasta for lasagna at my local Italian deli (this place is amazing !). But when we made the ravioloni with 85 cooking class students, we used pre-made Chinese dumpling or won-ton wrappers, available in many standard supermarkets and especially in Asian groceries.
Another shortcut : if you don’t have any homemade stock on hand, you may use pre-made stock – just make sure it’s of high quality. One way of improving store-bought stock is to reuse your vegetable peelings : if taken from organic vegetables, they can be simmered for a half hour in your pre-made bouillon to give it more flavor. How’s that for anti-gaspi technique ?
Another way to reuse the waste from this recipe is by saving your egg whites. Freezing them to use later makes for even better meringues or any other recipe calling for whipped egg whites.
8 tablespoons (120 g) butter
1 small Hokkaido or Red kuri squash (about 2 pounds 3 ounces or 1 kg), cut in half, emptied, peeled (for preparing the squash, see note below this recipe for pumpkin chestnut soup) and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
4 cups (950 ml) well-flavored chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons (30 g) whole hazelnuts (or pre-roasted chopped hazelnuts)
1 teaspoon hazelnut oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
a few twists of the white pepper mill
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese + 1 cup coarsely shredded parmesan cheese for garnish
14 ounces (400 g) fresh sheet pasta or fresh lasagna sheets, or 1 14-ounce package of Chinese dumpling wrappers (square or round will both work) – either way, you’ll need 36 squares or circles of pasta to make up to 18 ravioloni
1 egg yolk, broken in a small bowl
fresh chopped herbs of your choice for garnish
how to make it :
1. Begin by butter-braising the squash : melt the butter over medium heat and when it foams slightly, add the squash cubes and let them cook for about 30-35 minutes over medium-low or low heat, stirring occasionally and then mashing with a spoon or potato masher as the squash is more thoroughly cooked. You should end up with a purée that is quite compact and dense. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
2. Bring the stock to a boil and let it simmer to reduce it, skimming if necessary from time to time. The stock should reduce by half (to about 2 cups).
3. Roast the hazelnuts on a baking pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning and tossing occasionally. Their skin makes it hard to know (visually) when they’re ready, so use your nose and mouth : when your house starts to fill with a nutty odor, remove one nut from the oven, let it cool, and then taste. The hazelnut should be crunchy all the way through, not crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Once all the nuts are roasted and have cooled, rub them together inside a tea towel, remove the nuts from the flaky skins, and chop them coarsely.
4. Transfer the squash purée to a medium bowl, add just 2 tablespoons of the chopped hazelnuts (reserve the rest for the garnish), hazelnut oil, salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Stir well and let cool.
5. On a lightly floured countertop, spread out the fresh pasta or dumpling wrappers. If you’re using fresh lasagna (or other pasta) sheets, cut them into 36 squares, reserving 18 of these in a little pile on the side. Spread out the other 18 wrappers and using a pastry brush, brush just the contour of each wrapper, making a ½-inch (12-mm) line of egg yolk on the edge of each wrapper.
6. Place a heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin purée in the middle of each wrapper. Place a “clean” wrapper (from the pile) on top of the purée. “Chase” the air out of the ravioloni by pressing lightly on the wrapper just around the purée, and then seal the ravioloni by pressing on the outside where the egg yolk glues the two wrappers together. Make sure there aren’t any holes or gaps. Continue this way and then dust the pasta with a little more flour and let them dry at room temperature for ½ hour.
7. Simmer the ravioloni a few at a time in a large pot of water. Generally, the ravioloni are cooked in about 4 minutes or when they float up to the surface of the water.
8. Drain the ravioloni carefully and distribute them immediately into warmed soup plates or very wide, shallow bowls : for a first course, serve 2 ravioloni per person, and for a main course, serve 4 per person.
9. Ladle a bit of broth over the top (how much will depend on the number of people you’re serving), and sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts, the shredded parmesan cheese, and chopped herbs of your choice. Serve immediately. Bon app’ !
makes 16-18 ravioloni ; 4 main course servings or 8-9 first-course servings