Earlier, we talked about giving some love to those cast-off vegetable parts, such as the skins, stalks, and leaves. Because many of these food scraps have been, well, scraps, very little nutrition information exists to highlight health benefits. But we know that eating vegetables is good for you and the culinary applications for these produce picks are endless and delicious. Here are some ideas to try:
Buying a whole fennel with its long stalks and ample potato fronds is a great choice for experimenting with repurposing veggie parts. The bulb’s crunch and anise flavor works well in a fresh salad, but stalk and fronds can be used, too. A few examples to try: a sweet starter course salad with a lovely frond garnish, a zesty side for sandwiches, or a warm salad to combine sausage, fennel, and peppery greens. Besides tossing stalks into a stock, you can also use a quick-pickle to flavor the stalks for a salad where fennel bulb stars or to pile into a muffuletta-style sandwich or banh mi (with other pickled vegetables).
Start saving those stalks and tough ribs of kale, collards and chard, too. (They will likely add a little dose of fiber to your cooking if you add them to other dishes.) Many recipes call for removing the stalks or tough ribs before cooking the greens; if you remove them for one recipe, save them to use in another. Add the chopped ribs to sauté with aromatics in a stir-fry, for sautéed greens or for soup. (Just like sautéing onions, cook the ribs until tender.) An even easier option is to try this pesto, which employs your favorite winter greens and their stalks.
And while we’re talking about stalks, consider the tender stems of parsley and cilantro as bonus ingredients. The more delicate stems tend to be where the leaves are. When you’re using the herb in a salad, pesto, meatballs, dressing, or even a garnish you don’t necessarily have to pull the leaves from the stems; just chop it all and go or keep the leaf and stem attached for a pretty garnish. A secret ingredient for adding bright flavor to a great smoothie is parsley. A few leaves and stems go a long way for green, clean flavor. You can also use these stems tossed into homemade broths for adding big herby notes.
When you’re feeling more adventurous, buy carrots with vibrant tops, and you’re getting a great two-for-one produce deal. Because they are slightly bitter tasting, carrot tops make a great fit in a rich pesto. Or use the greens for a veggie-centric smoothie or a salad dressing for sweet, roasted root vegetables. (Carrots are full of vitamins A and C, but no independent data exists on the nutrient value of the greens. But we do know that the greens are full of chlorophyll — hence the color — and water, which explains why they shrink so much when blanched or sautéed.) Until we know more, feel good cooking with those carrot tops and knowing you’ve enjoyed as much of that carrot as possible.
If you want some more inspiration and eye candy (and to learn just how popular this idea is), check out photos of what a community of chefs, food purveyors and processors are doing to save and use kitchen scraps!
Do you have a favorite cast-away veggie part? How do you use it?