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NYC Department of Sanitation debuts cooking show for the COVID-19 era

The garbage removal agency is showing home cooks how to use stuff you might otherwise throw in the trash.
Chef Michael Anthony of New York City's acclaimed Gramercy Tavern showed his daughter how to make mayonnaise from scratch in one episode.
Chef Michael Anthony of New York City's acclaimed Gramercy Tavern showed his daughter how to make mayonnaise from scratch in one episode. YouTube
/ Source: TODAY

Collecting 12,000 tons of refuse and recycling daily, New York City's Department of Sanitation is the world's largest municipal sanitation force. And a lot of what its workers collect is wasted food.

Now, in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the garbage removal agency has launched a series of cooking videos on YouTube that feature some of the city's most prominent chefs showing home cooks how to get creative using ingredients that otherwise might be tossed out.

Last week, the Department of Sanitation posted four videos in its new series. In the first video, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, gives a tutorial on "Cooking with Kids at Home," where she shows viewers how to make a broccoli-cheese toast.

"This dish is one of my favorites to make with kids because it's quick, it uses frozen vegetables, and because it's draped in melted cheese," Perelman explained from the kitchen of her East Village apartment.

To make the toast, Perelman mixes up chopped broccoli (you can use fresh or frozen, but you should be using stems and all) with various seasonings and lemon zest. She spoons the broccoli mixture onto slices of bread, tops them with provolone cheese (it's like a tuna melt but with broccoli!) and pops them into the oven.

At the end of the video, she offers the finished product to her 4-year-old daughter, who at first seems hesitant, but then takes a big bite of the crunchy, veggie-topped toast.

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Other videos in the series include "Cooking with Food Scraps," which explains how to waste less and make good use of the odds and ends many people normally toss in the trash.

"While our supply chain is strong there are a few things that we can do and probably should be doing to make our food last as long as possible," said food blogger and writer Sophia Roe, who shows viewers how to get more life from squeezed-out lemons, then blanches and freezes wilting kale for later use.

Other videos include "Cooking with Local Ingredients" hosted by chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern in which he and his daughter make potato salad (including homemade mayo), and "Cooking with Items from Your Pantry," with Jake Cohen, editorial director of FeedFeed, who shows people how to make "pantry" brownie cookies using olive oil.

Joshua Goodman, assistant commissioner for Public Affairs at the DSNY, told TODAY Food that the stars of the videos were selected "because they are prominent New York City chefs, some of whom had worked with DSNY before on our zero-waste campaigns."

"In April, the city of New York released a plan called 'Feeding New York' about how we would prevent the crisis of COVID-19 from becoming a crisis of hunger," said Goodman. "It covered two main areas: getting direct food to New Yorkers in need, and protecting our food supply. These videos are part of the second part, protecting our food supply."

While many New York City grocery stores have yet to experience the meat and produce shortages affecting other retailers nationwide, the supply chain has still needed to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances caused by coronavirus. DSNY says it hopes to encourage the public to adjust their consumption behaviors to use more of what is available in their own pantries and learn how to cook with items they may not have regularly used before the pandemic.

"We hope these videos help New Yorkers — the most adaptable people on the planet — to adjust their cooking and eating habits as the supply chain catches up," Goodman said.