With food waste on the rise and popular initiatives to #breakupwithplastic dominating social media, we seem more eager than ever for change. Root-to-stem cooking not only looks politically poignant alongside related campaigns, but proves to be an innovative, wallet-friendly, health-promoting, and waste-free way to be eating. With this approach, foods that would typically end up in the compost end up landing deliciously on our plates.
Here are 5 ways that you can cook from root to stalk, plus a few inspired recipes to help you along.
1. Vegetable Stock
Probably the most obvious of them all, vegetable stock is a perfect way to use up the spare parts that might otherwise end up in your compost bin.
Start by keeping a bag in your freezer for vegetable scraps then add to it as you go (e.g. carrot ends and peelings, green parts of leeks, kale stalks, onion peelings, mushroom stems, etc.). Once you’ve accumulated enough, pop the scraps into a stock pot with water, herbs, and garlic and simmer for about an hour. Voilà!
Now try this ? How to Make Veggie Stock from Kitchen Scraps
2. Sauces, Pestos & Salsas
To broaden the flavour profile of some of your favourite sauces, think of adding things like carrot tops, celery leaves, radish leaves, cilantro stems, turnip greens, kale stems and more as a replacement for, or addition to, typical sauces like basil pesto, salsa verde, and other everyday sauces like this Vibrant Green Sauce.
3. Salads & Slaws
Add variety, texture, and crunch to your typical greenery. Despite their rough outer appearance, broccoli stems are an absolute favourite. A quick shave of the outer peel, reveals a sweet, crunchy centre that will soon be favoured over the florets themselves. Slice, shred, or cut them into batons and make them the base of a refreshing salad.
Celery leaves, radish leaves, and fennel fronds make flavourful additions to salads. Whole fennel bulbs, cabbage, and kohlrabi, among others, can be shredded to make a slaw. And kohlrabi leaves, much like other sturdy leafy greens, are best eaten cooked, but can also be chopped and added to salad. For your best bet, get them in the spring when the leaves are tender and fresh.
4. The Main Attraction
Meat and other proteins have been stepping aside more often to make way for more veggie-centric mains. It’s hard not to see a recipe for simple cauliflower steaks or cauli rice everywhere you look. Whole roasted cauliflower, on the other hand, is a bit more effort but makes a stunning centrepiece to any meal. And you’ve, without a doubt, heard of using eggplant or zucchini strips in place of noodles for lasagna, portobello mushrooms as a pizza base, spaghetti squash noodles under your meat (or lentil) balls, or creating a boat or bowl out of almost any squash.
Perhaps most obviously, you can make a deliciously filling main that is not focussed on one vegetable but remains entirely plant-based. #MeatlessMonday is a thing of the past; veggie mains are here to stay.
Mains down this way ?
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Fontina Cheese Sauce
- Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos with Avocado Crema
- Portobello Pizzas
- Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Casserole
Pickles give old meals new life. Instead of tossing your kale/swiss chard/beet green stems, broccoli stalks, vegetable peelings, watermelon rinds, and pepper tops, try pickling them to add lustre to a sandwich, bowl, or taco. Alternatively, just get pickled with this apple peel bourbon.
Recipe for Basic Quick Pickle Brine
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of vinegar (white, apple cider, white wine, etc.)
- ¼ – ½ cup organic cane sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ~ 2 tablespoons seasoning (mix n’ match to your liking) e.g. peppercorns, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves, ground turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon sticks (for sweeter things like beets)
- Other seasonings, optional: garlic cloves, ginger, dried or fresh whole chilis, herbs such as dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme
- Vegetable, fruit, or scrap of your choice
- In a medium pot over high heat, bring water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and seasonings to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved and the liquid becomes infused with flavour, approximately 10 minutes.
- Place vegetable/fruit/scrap in a heatproof jar and pour hot brining liquid over top to cover the contents. Allow it to come to room temperature, then cover and chill for several hours before serving.