When Earth Day comes around, we think of clean air, land and water by way of such things as compact fluorescent light bulbs, bamboo flooring, low-flow flushes and composting, among other things. And for food, what comes to mind is sustainable, farm-to-table and organic. Clearly, we realize the benefits of eating “green,” with an emphasis on sourcing locally, yet what about the 6 billion pounds of U.S. fruits and vegetables that go unharvested or unsold each year? These, too, are just as tasty, so giving blemished pears, wonky carrots and other misfits the opportunity to be featured in a dish is one of the best things you can do for the planet. With that in mind, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group has collected five recipes to inspire us to give these “ugly” fruits and vegetables a second look. Each recipe seeks to maximize the fruit or vegetable’s flavor, regardless of its less-than-perfect appearance. Check them out at bandbristorante.com, and the next time you see a bruised summer squash, take it home and grill it.
Meat is a food source that Americans are urged to forgo on Earth Day. But why? Consider meat purveyors such as Heritage Foods USA, which is promoting its efforts to save breeds of livestock that are nearing extinction. The most practical way to preserve these animals? Eat them. Unlike wildlife, endangered livestock are rescued when demand increases and farmers have the incentive to raise them. Rare to critically rare breeds such as Mulefoot hogs, of which there are fewer than 200 registered, are one such example. These and other breeds are winning the hearts and palates of eco-conscious diners, not only because they are raised humanely and sustainably without antibiotics and hormones, but because they are immensely delicious. The B&B group is an original supporter of all things Heritage and the rare-breed movement. Each week, 1,200 pounds of fresh pork cuts are delivered to Carnevino Italian Steakhouse (In The Palazzo, carnevino.com), B&B Ristorante (In The Venetian, bandbristorante.com), Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria (In The Venetian, lasvegas.ottopizzeria.com) and B&B Burger & Beer (In The Venetian, bandbburgerandbeer.com), along with a whole pig for B&B’s charcuterie program and other menu items. The breeds vary week to week, but typical are the Berkshires, bright and porky with a smooth texture and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, and Red Wattles, extremely rare and prized for their tender, juicy, well-marbled meats and earthy, herbaceous flavors.
Chew on this: Of the 15 swine breeds raised just 50 years ago, eight are extinct, and most of the remaining purebreds are in danger of extinction. Eating and preserving them makes an impact on the environment and local economy, saves the species and maintains a natural and balanced food chain. Try the 20-ounce bone-in pork chop at Carnevino or the pork tenderloin terrine with quince, pistachio and celery at B&B Ristorante.
At Bazaar Meat by José Andrés (SLS Las Vegas, slslasvegas.com), the chef offers a few dishes such as The Classic beef tartare and Beef Rib Steak that feature older cattle, the way they do in his native Spain. Some of his cuts come from 8–10-year-old livestock, as opposed to the maximum 30-month-old beef we eat in the U.S. that’s stipulated by the USDA. Premium cuts primarily come from Holstein cows that were cared for by farmers at Mindful Meats in California’s Bay Area. This is a very sustainable form of beef—its environmental footprint is considered better than conventional beef and is also offset by the organic milk the cows produce during their lifetime. Dairy steak has a long culinary tradition in Spain. And why? Heavy fat marbling gives succulence, and older animals provide unsurpassed richness and flavor.
Calves liver. Photography by Krystal Ramirez
Speaking of meat, let’s eat the whole animal, shall we? Some of these forgotten delicacies were actually celebrated food of generations past. Over time, we’ve opted for the prettier cuts—discarding the tripe, kidneys, tongue, trotters and head. But we are seeing a revival of nose-to-tail eating, where no part of the animal is left uneaten. Try the Mascarpone & Guanciale Mashed Potatoes at Carnevino; Roasted Veal Sweetbreads dusted with mushroom powder and pan-fried, served over creamy bacon polenta at Sage (In Aria, aria.com); braised beef cheeks with saffron rice and Japanese mushroom in a red wine–soy whiskey reduction (from its whiskey-pairing menu) at Sushi Samba (In The Palazzo, sushisamba.com); bone marrow flan with mushroom marmalade and parsley salad at CUT (in The Palazzo, wolfgangpuck.com); and calves liver topped with guanciale at Lupo (In Mandalay Bay, wolfgangpuck.com).
Chefs and diners alike have started viewing their consumption through the lens of sustainability. Start by asking if the animal was raised humanely. After taking its life, the least we can do is make the most of it—season leafy greens with its neck bones or create flaky biscuits with lard, for starters. Let your imagination go hog wild and waste not a bit of that precious life. Happy Earth Day!