Alexis de Boschnek, author of To the Last Bite: Recipes and Ideas for Making the Most of Your Ingredients, talks with farmer, food writer, and Bluedot contributor Maria Buteux Reade about why to ignore expiration dates and how to use the parts of ingredients that we typically throw out.
Alexis de Boschnek believes that cutting back on food waste remains one of the most effective ways we can combat climate change. In fact, she created this cookbook, filled with unique – and truly delicious — recipes designed to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
This native of New York’s Catskill Mountains admits she wasn’t raised like other kids. “We didn’t have a television, and most of what my mom cooked came from our gardens.” Alexis went to school with lunches that ranged from roasted zucchini and garlic sandwiches, baguettes with thin ribbons of prosciutto and butter, and pâté with avocado. Her favorite childhood meal? Rice and kale alongside sole topped with caper butter. Not your typical kid fare.
Maria: How did growing up in the Catskills shape you?
Alexis: My mom was a master gardener who practiced sustainability before it became ‘a thing.’ Ingredients for meals were sourced locally, foraged from the woods, caught in the rivers and streams, and harvested from our gardens. Mom taught me to waste as little as possible through creative cooking, canning, freezing, and composting. Everything had a purpose beyond its first use.
M: Have you always been a good cook?
A: Actually no! I loved gardening but didn’t start cooking until the summer before I went off to college in New York City. I didn’t want to always eat in the dining hall so I taught myself some basics that summer. Living in New York City, I had TV for the first time and started watching the Food Network, shopping in city markets, and trying out restaurants. It was eye-opening to see this whole other world of food!
M: You earned your degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology but ended up in food media. How did that happen?
A: The deeper in the fashion world I got, the less it appealed to me. I read Ruth Reichl’s book “Garlic and Sapphires” about her life as a restaurant critic in disguise. That made me realize I could be in the food world without being a chef. I landed an internship with Eater my senior year and an amazing world opened up.
M: And then?
A: After college, I did a four-month intensive culinary program, eventually moved to Los Angeles, and worked in food media for ten years. That ultimately led to me getting connected to the William Morris Agency. I pitched the idea for this cookbook to my literary agent in July 2019, and we sold the book in October 2019. It all happened super fast!
M: Give us a thumbnail overview of “To the Last Bite.”
A: My concept is to cut down on food waste by using ingredients in multiple ways across different dishes. At the end of most recipes, I provide suggestions for ways you can use remaining ingredients in other dishes. Or save yourself time by doubling the rice or roasting more cauliflower and use it in the next night’s meal. With a basic farm to table theme, the recipes all seem to weave together beautifully. We all need to think and cook more consciously in order to honor the beautiful food our farmers and producers offer.
M: What are some of the things most of us are guilty of tossing when we should be using them?
A: Stalks and stems! They’re so flavorful and delicious! Fennel stalks, chard stems, broccoli leaves, and the dark green tops of leeks — those contain the most color, texture and flavor! Use the stems of soft herbs, such as parsley and cilantro that add body. And expiration dates drive me crazy too. Use your senses — taste and smell before you decide to pitch or compost. Don’t waste your money!
M: How do you describe your manner of cooking?
A: I want to cook dishes that are approachable, accessible, and delicious. Low lift, high reward. I try to develop recipes for people who may not have access to gourmet groceries or specialty shops. The majority of my dishes are based on ingredients found in local grocery stores. Except for black garlic, which is one of my favorite splurge items. Buy it online and it’ll last forever in your fridge!
M: What was it like taking on this project during the pandemic?
My boyfriend and I were both freelancers at the time, so we decided to move from L.A. back here to my family home in the Catskills. We thought we’d stay for about six months as we figured out our next steps but never left! We live here now in the 1820 farmhouse where I grew up. Being back home surrounded by amazing gardens and local farms is such a privilege. And all the photographs for the book were taken right here on our property.
M: I know it’s like asking a parent to name a favorite child, but what are some of your go-to recipes in the book?
A: I usually have a galette dough ready to go in the freezer or fridge. I make the granola once a week – it’s super aromatic with cardamom, ginger, and pecans, and it clumps together in a nice crunchy way, not too sweet, not too dry. The Weeknight Rice and the Shallot Vinaigrette are foolproof. Spatchcock Paprika Chicken is a favorite, as is the Lamb Phyllo Pie. My photographer and I polished off the entire pie after she finished taking the photos!
M: With recipes like Braised Short Rib Ragout, Really Good Meatballs, and Spicy Brothy Bacony Beans, you’re clearly an omnivore!
A: I love meat, and we’re privileged to have access to humanely raised pastured meats and poultry. So we eat them in moderation.
M: What’s next?
A: I’ve been going nonstop since I headed off to college in 2008. The cookbook came out in April, and I’m getting married in August 2023. My fiancé and I want to be in the moment and enjoy what we’re creating here on the farm and in our community.