By Heather Reid
Does this sound familiar: At the beginning of the week, your fridge is full of vegetables and fruit, and this time you’re going to use it all, no waste. Then, a few days later, you open the door to find wilting lettuce, some limp broccoli and a bunch of sad radishes (what were you going to do with those again?), and you’re on the phone ordering takeout.
“Food waste is financial waste, too,” says Reilly Brock, a content manager at Imperfect Produce, a fruit and vegetable subscription delivery service that works with farmers to sell produce that is considered too ugly for supermarkets or restaurants directly to consumers. “Not only is it a waste of water and time from the farmers’ perspective, it’s often an unseen cost to families. The average family of four loses more than $1,300 a year in food waste.”
No more tossing those extra bits from the produce drawer into the trash. Try the ideas below, save money and feel like a kitchen ninja.
Use #1: Vegetable Stock
“Stock is a great catchall for the last sad carrot and the often overlooked fennel greens,” Brock says.
Here’s how: Thoroughly wash and dry 4 to 5 cups of leek greens, fennel stalks, carrots (and their tops), celery leaves and inner ribs, beet greens and any other strays. (Pro tip: These items can be quite dirty, so make sure to thoroughly wash off grit and sand.)
Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet along with a sliced onion, a few peeled, whole cloves of garlic, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, stir and finish for another 10 minutes until vegetables are soft and golden. Scrape it all into a pot, cover with an inch or two of water and add a bay leaf and a teaspoon of whole peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve to remove solids, let broth cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Use it as a base in soups or instead of water when cooking rice or quinoa.
Use #2: Greens-and-Tops Pesto
Beet greens, radish greens, carrot tops and other extras “are sometimes ignored as actual ingredients, but they add lots of flavor and nutrition to dishes,” Brock says. “Using your vegetables completely, root to greens, is a great way to save money and reduce waste.”
Transform those random salad greens, beet greens and other ‘tops’ into a mix-and-match pesto—you can toss it with pasta, spoon it over fish before roasting, or mix it with plain yogurt for a quick, tasty dip.
Here’s how: In a food processor, combine 2 to 3 packed cups of well-washed and dried greens (this can include beet greens, mustard greens, radish greens, carrot tops, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, arugula, and/or herbs such as basil, mint, parsley or oregano), ¼ cup nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, or a combo), ¼ cup olive or avocado oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Blend until a thick paste forms. If it’s too thick, blend in more oil by the teaspoon until it reaches the consistency you like. Also try blending in the juice and zest from ½ lemon and/or ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes to give it zing. (Pro tip: Carrot tops can be bitter when raw, so keep them to ½ cup or less total.)
Transfer the pesto to a small container, drizzle a thin layer of oil over the top (to inhibit browning), cover and refrigerate, or freeze in ice cube trays.
Use #3: Spiced Vegetable Fritters
There comes a point every summer where there’s just too much zucchini, but these fritters are a tasty and crowd-pleasing way to use it up. Add texture, flavor and color by including other vegetables and herbs. These freeze well and make a great side for fish or chicken, or enjoy them for breakfast topped with a fried egg.
BIO: Heather Reid is a Chicago-based writer, blogger and avid cook. She writes about baking bread and other adventures at heatherreidwrites.com.
- 4 cups shredded vegetables (see note)
- Kosher salt
- 3 scallions or ½ small onion, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup unflavored almond milk (or other milk of choice)
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- ½ tsp. cayenne, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado oil or ghee, for frying
- Place shredded vegetables in a colander, toss with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and let stand for 10 minutes to drain. Rinse and squeeze well in a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
- Transfer shredded vegetables to a medium bowl and add scallions, cilantro, chickpea flour, garlic, eggs, almond milk, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne (if desired). Season with ½ to 1 tsp. salt and ¼ to ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Have ready a paper-towel-lined plate. Warm 4 Tbsp. avocado oil or ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Spoon heaping tablespoons of fritter mixture into the warm oil, spread into 3-inch patties and cook for about 5 minutes, until deep golden brown on the bottom. Carefully flip and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. Place on lined plate to drain. Serve warm.
Use any combination of these vegetables to reach 4 cups. Grate them using the grating blade in a food processor, or by hand on a box grater.
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2-3 broccoli stems, trimmed
- 1 small sweet potato (peeled) or 2 small potatoes (any variety, scrubbed well, unpeeled)
- ½ cup turnips, peeled and trimmed