Scrap Cooking: How to Turn Your Leftovers into a Delicious Treat | environment
IIf holiday meal prepping has left you with plates full of potato peels and cutting boards full of carrot tops, you’re not alone. The United States sees a 25% increase in waste during the holiday season — 21% of which comes from our kitchen tables. On Thanksgiving alone, Americans throw away a whopping 305 million pounds of food. And all the cheese peels, apple cores, vegetable peels, and week-old crusty food scraps that make their way into landfills are harming the planet by emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas. According to one UNEP estimate, if food waste were its own country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Much of so-called food waste is completely edible.
“Humans have never — until very recently — gotten rid of edible foods,” said Tamar Adler, a former professional chef and author of Everending Meal Cookbook: Leftovers AZ and the cooking tips newsletter The Kitchen Shrink. “Using parts of everything is essential to human eating.”
Here, Adler and other chefs share their tips for turning leftovers from the trash to your plate.
If you’re making mashed potatoes or latkes, you’ll probably end up with a pile of potato peelings. First things first: Slice these skins very thin, boil them in boiling water and cool them over ice. From here, you have two different options. Adler suggested roasting the hides in the oven with salt and olive oil immediately. Topped with Gruyère and green onions, you can serve these luxurious potato chips as a pre-meal snack to guests.
Stephen Goff, a sustainability-minded chef at Tastee Diner in Asheville, North Carolina, said he likes to prepare a similar, if more decadent, snack by frying peels and dousing them with barbecue sauce and crème fraîche.
If you want to incorporate potato skins into a main dish, Goff suggests frying them, grinding them in a food processor, and sprinkling them over a casserole dish. You can also add more turkey or chicken skin from your main roast, which, Goff said, gives the mixture a strong umami flavor.
Do carrot tops always end up in compost or trash? There is another way. You can replace carrot heads with herbs, whether it’s in meat sauce or pesto for pasta. If your recipe calls for leaves or stems of parsley or cilantro, you can replace half the amount of cilantro or parsley with carrot greens, said Jamie Bissonnette, a James Beard Award-winning chef based in Boston who appears on the food waste-challenging cooking show Scraps. . He also suggested finishing any holiday carrot dish with thin slices and stems for extra flavor.
If you’re serving a roast for your holiday dinner, Goff recommends turning carrot tops into chimichurri, which can serve as a delicious side sauce. Chop the carrot heads by hand or put them in a food processor, then mix them with olive oil, garlic, and grated onions. “I like to do it the day before or a little early in the day to let it marinate like a soup,” Goff said.
Most store-bought bread-based products, such as croutons or breadcrumbs, are easy to make at home. The simplest preparation, Adler said, is to turn old heels or hardened loaves into breadcrumbs. Adler recommends grinding them in a food processor and throwing away the larger, hard pieces. “You’ll end up with a few cups, which is definitely enough to make macaroni and cheese or chicken strips,” she said. You can also combine these breadcrumbs with lemon zest and turkey or roast broth and use them to dress a casserole, Goff added. If you already have enough breadcrumbs, you can also use stale bread to make toast or make your own filling.
For a bruschetta-like appetizer, Bissonnette suggests slicing stale bread, toasting it, then rubbing a clove of raw garlic over the browned surface, covering it with a sweet, savory fruit like a tomato or persimmon, and drizzling with olive oil. . “This becomes a quick and delicious snack,” he said.
If you’re tired of leftovers, you can make a whole new meal using stale bread: ribollita, an Italian soup that includes stale bread, beans, kale and other winter staples, Adler says.
And don’t overlook the power of bread pudding. They can be made as a dessert — Adler says you can make them from sourdough fruit scones and other sweet breads — or they can be savory. Goff says brown bread and rye bread can make a delicious bread pudding topped with caramelized onions or even bacon.
Bissonnette recommends putting a pot on standby while you chop vegetables. When Bissonnette cooks at home, he throws all the leftover vegetables into that pot, and when he’s done, he fills it with ice water, adds salt and simmers until he has a stock, which he keeps in the refrigerator to make soups and stews. Apple cores provide a fruity addition. Bissonnette chops them up, removes the seeds, and tosses them to add flavor.
Apple cores can also be made into a fatty or flavored liquid. Adler recommends making apple cider vinegar, which involves pickling the apple cores with sugar for a few weeks, which will give you a fruity vinegar. Goff and Adler also recommend soaking apple cores with either sugar or simple syrup and spices, which you can then use to flavor plain seltzer or make cocktails.
Goff also suggests cooking apple cores with brown sugar and spices, then mashing them to make apple butter.
More junk cooking
For many home cooks, knowing what is food and what is food waste is often the most challenging part of scrap cooking. But experts say you should trust your instincts about what’s good to eat, even if expiration dates tell you otherwise.
“There’s nothing wrong with (an ingredient) as long as it tastes good to you,” Goff said.
Adler added that our bodies were conditioned to evaluate ingredients long ago: Generally, if you smell it and don’t recoil in disgust, it won’t hurt you.
While preserving clippings may seem like an extra chore, Adler says it can save you time — and money — later.
“Because I’m saving things and constantly turning them into other meals, I spend less time, not more time, cooking,” Adler said, noting that she would prepare meals of Thanksgiving food for weeks after the holiday. “I think it’s much easier to start with something than with nothing at all. Starting with something is always easier.”
Adler says the most important prep step is to take a few minutes to chop or blanch them and then store your scraps in clean, well-labeled containers so they look like the ingredients. “Make it attractive and quick to use, and tell your future self how to use it. Reduce the cognitive load,” she said.
But cooking with leftovers isn’t right for everyone all the time. That’s a good thing, says Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan. “Don’t burden yourself with food waste during the holidays,” he said. “Be burdened by everything else.”
If the idea of preserving leftovers during an already busy time seems insurmountable, Barber offered other ways to stay on top of our diets this time of year. If you live in a rural area, he suggested finding a local farm and pledging to bring your scraps there to feed pigs throughout 2024. You can also ask your supermarket manager about buying imperfect foods, which are misshapen products that are often thrown away. . Or cut out energy-dense foods like meat and white flour for the weeks leading up to your favorite holiday, then indulge in a barbecue.
“This is what celebrations are about. This is a time when we should really indulge,” Barber said. “The rest of the year, we should be thinking about how to eat with the least amount of footprint on the world.”