One of the main goals of Refettorios and Social Tables is to support food recovery using fresh food surplus, considered imperfect and otherwise wasted, as the source of ingredients to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for people in situations of vulnerability and food insecurity. To build a healthier and more sustainable food system, the chefs from each project use ingredients that are fresh and seasonable. Andrea, for instance, cooks every Monday night for the guests of the Social Tables Ghirlandina with the surplus ingredients donated by the local Albinelli market.
Local markets play an important role in strengthening community resilience and Mercato Albinelli is no exception. Known as Modena historic market, it has been a place to meet people and to savor delicious flavors since the early 1900s. Inaugurated in 1931, the market is realized in Art Nouveau style with, at its centre, a statue of a young girl holding a fruit basket, made by Giuseppe Graziosi, one of the most appreciated Modenese artist of the 19th century. Over the years, Mercato Albinelli has been celebrating the most genuine values of the local culture and today, almost 90 years after its opening, vendors donate their unsold fruit and vegetable to the volunteers of the Social Tables Ghirlandina, allowing guests to be served a healthy and nourishing meal and to feel part of this culture.
The guests who come for dinner feel lucky they can rely on people like the market’s vendors, who are all eager to give back to their community by donating their surplus food to the Monday evening service.
Paola has a little butcher shop and every Monday afternoon, before closing her shop, she gives a bag of chicken bones to the volunteers, while Vincenzo and Pamela, two of the market’s bakers, donate their unsold bread and share their tips on how to reuse stale bread – “Trust me, simply soak it in a warm cup of cappuccino for breakfast or in a bowl of broth, it will be delicious!”, says Pamela. Marzia is famous for her spontaneous smile, Fabrizio for his kindness, Sukhi for her tropical fruit donations and, last but not least, Ettore, Alessio e Andrea for their famous selection of organic fruit and vegetables.
What makes the project in Modena truly unique is the human chain that supports the service – after the ingredients are donated, a team of volunteers brings then to the kitchen of the Social Tables Ghirlandina when Andrea and the other chefs use their creativity to make something valuable and enjoyable out of something that seemed to have no value at all. The result is often a fun and unexpected recipe that can be easily replicated at home with what’s left in the fridge – like this delicious spring vegetable risotto.
Wash and clean the celery, carrot and onion, put them in a pan with cold water. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat, cook for about two hours and salt – this is the basis for a simple vegetable broth, but other types of vegetables can be added to make it tastier.
Clean the cauliflower and broccoli, cut them into small pieces and cook in salted water. Drain and leave aside.
In the meantime wash the pepper, remove the internal seeds and cut it into small pieces. Wash and cut the zucchini too. Sauté peppers and zucchini in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, adjusting with salt and a pinch of black pepper.
Put about 50 g of fresh basil leaves in an immersion blender and create an emulsion by adding oil until it becomes of the desired consistency. Season with salt.
Chop and fry the shallot in a saucepan with oil. Add the rice and stir frequently to prevent it from sticking. After about 1 minute, blend with wine. After a few minutes gradually add the broth and cook for about 15 minutes.
Towards the end, add the previously cooked vegetables to the rice.
After cooking, when the rice is still ‘al dente’, turn off the heat and add the butter and the grated Parmesan cheese.
Garnish the dish with the basil emulsion and serve.