Gabriella Vigoreaux, photo by Cedric Angeles
Cooking can be one of the most wasteful things that we do — what with all the meat and vegetable discards it generates — but it doesn’t have to be. I remember in culinary school we were taught to save all our herb stems for infusing stocks and our wonky-looking attempts at perfect taillage for mirepoix. I took these practices with me when I graduated, and if I’m lucky I can usually find myself feeding off of the same batch of carrots five days in a row, in one way or another.
Lately, we’ve noticed a trend in restaurants across the country that have been making more of an attempt to conserve waste by using every last bit of vegetable they can. Call it vegetarian “nose to tail” cooking if you will. This idea has us inspired to come up with ways to cook with minimal waste.
Next time you bring home a head of broccoli or a bunch of Brussels sprouts, don’t be so quick to throw away the stems. Same goes for your herbs. These bits are all to often tossed aside, but if prepared properly you can get a whole meal out of them! Here are seven easy ways to conserve waste in your kitchen and turn those scraps into delicious dishes.
1. Save Your Stems
Not only do herb stems add flavor to homemade soups, stews, and stocks, but why not use use the whole herbs (stems and all) to make delicious vinaigrettes and sauces? Whenever I make my mother’s chimichurri, which is pretty much weekly, I don’t even bother to remove the cilantro and parsley stems.
2. Slice Your Stalks
Believe it or not, broccoli stalks are a delicious salad component. Just peel the tough outer skin and thinly shave or slice them.
Inspiration: Shaved Broccoli Stalk Salad with Lime and Cotija
3. Save Your Peels
I like to cook oatmeal in a broth of simmered fruit peels and cores to really extract as much flavor as possible. You can also put them to good use when making homemade syrups; just strain them out before serving. Try it next time before you toss aside those apple and pear scraps.
4. Roast the Whole Vegetable
One of the best ways to eat cauliflower is to just roast the whole entire thing. That way, you get to eat just about every part but the leaves. You can even do the same thing with broccoli. The presentation when you prepare veggies this way is pretty impressive, to boot.
Inspiration: Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese
6. Pickle It.
If preserving is your idea of a good time, then you’ll be happy to know that many leafy stems can be pickled and added to salads, sandwiches, salads, or just eaten from the jar as a snack.
Inspiration: Pickled Swiss Chard Stems
7. Make Your Own Stock
Leftover carrots, onions, celery, and herb stems all find a home in my weekly batch of homemade stock. I even save the broth-soaked veggies when I’m done and put them into my quinoa salads for lunch.