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One of the many signs of a successful restaurant is very little waste. You might need to cut your carrots into fancy shapes for presentation, but all those scraps can happily go into a stockpot. Maybe you're lopping off the tops of pretty red beets, in which case you have a lovely green leafy vegetable you don't want to overlook.
I like to market myself as being particularly helpful in curbing kitchen waste. Not only am I precise, like any good pastry professional, but I also have a few tricks up my sleeve in terms of turning slightly overripe fruit into tasty preserves and other treats.
While I am a huge fan of fresh, seasonal fruit, I am not so enthusiastic about using tiny cubes of fruit on a dessert. There's just too much waste in the form of scrap, and once you've created so many exposed surfaces it's just a matter of hours before your fruit is sad and mushy.
I once had a strawberry dessert on my summer menu that did involve tiny cubes of strawberries, which, of course, needed to be cut fresh daily. It was a tasty, dainty little dessert, but knowing that people might be getting slightly sad strawberries in it when I had the day off bummed me out.
The following summer, I vowed to offer a strawberry dessert that wasn't so fussy and would make use of even less than perfect berries. By roasting strawberries, you can coax life back into withered berries, rendering them jammy and luscious. My roasted strawberry tart was a refreshing, not-too-sweet way to end any summer meal.
That was half the inspiration for this recipe and the other half came from the food blogging community. See I like to keep tabs on what's sweeping the food blogging world as a means of extra inspiration (and occasionally comedy) and I'd been seeing an awful lot of "magic cake" in the past month or so. It's essentially an eggy cake with very little flour that souffles and falls to create a dense custardy cake with a slightly cakey top and bottom. Using buttermilk as the liquid in the cake and adding just the right about of poppy seeds, I achieved what, when chilled and served with the roasted strawberries, tastes not unlike a cheesecake.
I consider this a great achievement in the world of reducing waste.
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About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna and see her adventures in creativity on her website, VerySmallAnna.