Attention, attention! There’s a way to cook that minimizes waste, helps you get more adventurous in the kitchen and gives love to all your produce from roots to rinds. P.S. It involves things you might have previously thrown away or composted. We’re talking food scraps! From the greens at the top of your beets to the peels on your potatoes, turn the discard pile into something totally new. Recycling never tasted so good.
Root vegetables like carrots, beets and radishes can come with leafy tops that are just as useful as their bottoms. One word: pesto. Combine the tops with a handful of nuts (pine nuts are classic, but walnuts or almonds work too), a few glugs of extra-virgin olive oil, a generous shower of shredded pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, and blitz in a blender or crush with a mortar and pestle.
Pickle It (Or Re-Pickle It)
You’ve grabbed the last kosher dill spear and now you have sour, salty pickle juice leftover. Don’t sacrifice it to the drain — use it to “re-pickle” your scraps. Think the ends of asparagus stalks (trim them down with a vegetable peeler), the limp green beans that don’t make it into the picnic salad, kale or chard stems, celery stalk bottoms, broccoli stems and even watermelon rinds in the summer.
Turn that pile of potato peels into a seriously crispy, crunchy snack: Preheat the oven to 400°F, toss the peels with a couple tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt, then roast until browned and crispy, about 20 minutes.
Cleaning artichokes results in a pile of leaves — and an anytime appetizer. Where the leaf detaches from the body of the artichoke is a meaty little bite, just begging to be dipped into aioli or melted butter. The closer the leaves are to the center, the more tender they will be. Be sure you don’t eat the entire leaf: Use your teeth to scrape the meat from the leaf and leave the rest for compost.
There’s no comparing store-bought stock and homemade, and veggie scraps are your shortcut to the good stuff. Collect anything from onion skins to carrot peels, celery ends to tough fennel stalks, leek trimmings to sprouting garlic cloves into a freezer storage bag. Once it’s full, cover scraps with water in a stock pot, salt liberally and let simmer for several hours, until the liquid is fragrant and golden.
Take your favorite soup recipes down a variety of paths by ribboning beet green tops and adding them in to simmer in the last few minutes of cook time. Soft herb stems, like cilantro, carry a ton of flavor and often make it into the scrap heap. Chop them finely and add them into a dal, guacamole, salsa or curry.
Bonus Round! Unexpected Recipes for All Sorts of Leftovers
A refreshing drink made from cantaloupe ... SEEDS? It’s true. You’ll never want to sacrifice one to a seed-spitting contest again.
Instead of tipping the last few crumbs from the cookie box into your mouth, store them in an airtight jar in the cabinet (if dry) or in a storage bag in the freezer (if moist). Once you have a few handfuls, use them to make a cookie crust or sprinkle them on top of quick breads for a cookie streusel. Or try them in these decadent truffles that call for crumbs in both the filling and the garnish.
Along with flavoring water and tea, citrus peels can be candied into a sweet, chewy treat. Keep them in an airtight jar to snack on when a sweet craving hits or use them as a garnish on your favorite cakes.