Americans throw out a whopping 31 million tons of edible food a year. Sometimes we throw out food simply because we don’t know of an appetizing way to use it—this includes “scraps” such as potato peels, apple peels and broccoli stems. But Sherri Brooks Vinton knows just what to do with such perfectly fine food—and it isn’t throwing it away. She is the author of Eat It Up! 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Buy. Here are some of her delicious recipes…
POTATO PEEL “CROUTONS”
When a recipe calls for peeled potatoes, you can use the peels from any variety—fingerlings, russets, Yukon golds—to make these tasty, crunchy croutons that can liven up a salad or top a cooked casserole.
When possible, buy organic or locally grown potatoes that are sprayed only minimally with chemicals. Scrub all potatoes well to remove any dirt. Cut away small blemishes or eyes. You might want to hand-peel potatoes with a knife so that you can cut down deeper and wider than with a vegetable peeler to ensure substantial strips of peel. Otherwise the peels can be too papery to use.
- 2 cups potato peels from well-scrubbed potatoes
- 6 garlic cloves, with peel on
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of dried thyme
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)
Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Toss the potato peels and garlic cloves with the oil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the peels and garlic in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast until the peels are crisp, about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven, pick out the garlic cloves,* and toss the potato peels with the cheese. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes two cups.
*Don’t throw out that roasted garlic! Squeeze the pulp out of the papery skin, and blend it into dressings or dips or spread it on toast points.
When a recipe—or a finicky eater—calls for peeled apples, save the peels and make your own fruit-flavored tea. You can do this with pears and other fruits as well. Peels can keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Note: Many grocery stores wax their fruit to prolong its shelf life and make it shine. When possible, buy apples directly from a farmer or a market that doesn’t sell waxed fruit. If you have waxed apples: Fill a large bowl with warm water, and add a few drops of fragrance-free dish soap or one tablespoon each of lemon juice and baking soda. Roll the apples around in the water for two minutes, then gently scrub them with a soft-bristled brush.
- 5 teaspoons black tea leaves, or 2 tea bags
- 1–2 cups of apple peels (from 2 to 4 apples)
- Granulated sugar or other sweetener, if desired
Bring one quart of water to a boil, and turn off the heat. Add the tea leaves, encased in a tea ball, or the tea bags, and steep for five minutes. Remove the tea ball or bags, and add the peels. Return the tea to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Allow the peels to steep until the tea has cooled completely. Strain the tea, and compost or discard the peels. Serve over ice or reheat. Sweeten, if desired. Keeps, refrigerated, for up to five days. Makes one quart.
Many people believe broccoli stalks are tough and fibrous, but once trimmed, the stalks actually are tender and sweet.
To prepare the stalks: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer. Trim off the bottom, then you can shred with a box grater or cut into matchsticks.
If you need to store stalks before using them, leave them untrimmed, wrapped in a damp paper towel or stored in an airtight container for two to three days in the refrigerator.
Any extra vegetables—radishes, cabbage or peppers, for example—that you may have on hand can be prepped the same way and added to the slaw.
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Pinch of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Broccoli stalks from 1 bunch of broccoli, peeled, trimmed and shredded or cut into matchsticks
- 2 carrots, shredded or cut into matchsticks
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oils and red pepper flakes, if using. Add the broccoli and carrots, and toss to combine. Garnish with the cilantro, if using, and sesame seeds. Can be made up to two hours ahead. Makes two to four side-dish servings.
This is the perfect recipe for using up asparagus ends—it gives you the flavor, but straining the soup leaves the tough texture of the ends behind. You can store asparagus ends in an airtight container in the freezer before using them.
- 1 shallot, diced, or 1 leek, white and light green parts diced (you can save the dark green stalks for vegetable stock, see box)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound starchy potatoes, such as russets, peeled and chopped (save skins for Potato Peel Croutons)
- 2 cups asparagus ends
- 1 quart vegetable stock (see box)
- ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A few minced chives, croutons or a little sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Sauté the shallot or leek in the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until translucent, three to five minutes. Add the potatoes, asparagus ends and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are falling apart, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Or you can ladle the soup into a regular blender to purée.
Pour the blended soup through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-sized heat-proof bowl, taking care to press as much of the thick asparagus pulp through the strainer as possible, leaving only the stringy, fibrous material behind. Return the strained soup to the pot, and heat at a gentle simmer. If using the cream, add it and continue to simmer for two to three minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish, if you like, with chives, croutons and/or sour cream.
The soup (without the cream) can be cooled and refrigerated for two to three days or frozen for up to three months. Reheat and add the cream, if using, before serving.
VEGETABLE STOCK MADE FROM SCRAPS
A great way to use leftover vegetable stems and peels is to make a vegetable stock. What to do: Keep a clean, half-gallon paper carton (such as a milk carton) in the freezer, and add veggie scraps—such as the ends, peels and trimmings from potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, leeks, shallots, parsley, scallions, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Important: Do not use strong-flavored vegetables such as peppers or chilies or cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, because their taste will dominate the broth.
When you are ready to make the stock, peel away the paper carton to retrieve the frozen contents. Place in a medium-sized saucepan, and cover with cold water by two inches. Add one bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Lower the heat, and gently simmer for one hour. (Avoid the temptation to simmer for an extended period of time. Vegetables that simmer for more than two hours will taste bitter.)
Remove from the heat, and strain through a colander into a heat-proof bowl. Compost or discard the spent vegetables. Set the stock aside to cool to room temperature, and allow any grit to settle. Carefully pour off the broth, leaving any sediment behind.
Store in the refrigerator for up to five days, or freeze for up to six months.