As I mentioned in last week’s blog post and at my earlier workshop at Free the Seeds, top-to-root eating focuses on savoring it all by putting tops, roots, shoots, peels, and other scraps to use. This idea seems more important than ever as we think about how we stock our pantry, plan our growing season, and in general prepare better for the next crisis.
If you haven’t explored the Recipe Index, cruise through it now; you’ll likely find plenty of new ways to use the ingredients you do have on hand. Here, I’ll highlight some ways to put what’s left after you’ve made those recipes—the scraps—to use.
The Big 3 Stocks
As I emphasized last week, flavor and use aren’t limited to the main body of the fruit or vegetable; their roots, peels, and other trimming scraps can be just as nutritious and edible. It’s worth thinking about how you can reuse scraps before you compost them.
If you’ve already thought about putting scraps to use, likely you started with stock. The uses for homemade stock are as endless as its variations. Here are the recipes for my big 3: Vegetable Stock based on whole veg, Shrimp Stock based on shrimp shells, and Corncob Stock using—you guessed it—corncobs.
- Vegetable Stock: This recipe is written for whole vegetables, but it’s an easy way to use up rubbery celery or mushrooms that have shriveled in their bag.
- Shrimp Stock: This tasty stock gives a second life to shrimp shells before they head for the trash and will make you a firm believer in buying raw, unshelled prawns.
- Corncob Stock: My first true “scrap” stock, I developed this recipe because we grill dozens of ears of corn in the summer so that we can scrape off the kernels, freeze them, and enjoy fresh-tasting corn all year.
Other trimmings, such as from mushrooms, asparagus, and apples, can be turned into their own flavorful stock. Vegetable stocks can also be made from peelings; you can even prep the vegetables for a soup, make a quick stock, and use that directly in the recipe. The recipes I’ll share here and next week show you how.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need a bunch of vegetable and herb scraps plus salt and pepper.
1. Submerge your scraps in water.
2. Cook until they’ve release their flavor.
3. Strain and store or use.
Vegetable Scrap Stock
4 garlic cloves or about 2 tablespoons of their trimmings
3 tablespoons of herb stems, such as parsley, dill, and marjoram
1 teaspoon coarse salt or finer sea salt
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Add all ingredients to a 10-quart stockpot. Fill the pot with water to within about 2 inches of the rim; if using a larger pot measure out and add 8 cups of water. Bring the pot’s contents to just below a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Use a spider or large slotted spoon to pull the scraps from the stock, and then strain the liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth to remove the remaining solids. Let the stock cool before dividing it into containers, bags, and/or cubes and freezing. Makes 6–8 quarts.
Tips & Tricks
- The scraps listed here are just suggestions; you can use almost any vegetable and herb scraps you have on hand. Onions or leeks, celery, and carrots are typical base ingredients for a soup, so I always try to include these in the mix. Other scraps to consider include brassica cores, corncobs and corn husks, and parsnip and other root vegetable peels.
- Don’t worry about trying to generate 8 cups of scraps from preparing a single meal. When I know my freezer is low on vegetable stock and I’ll be making a fresh batch in a few days, I start a bag of trimmings and stash it in the fridge. If you need more than 3–4 days to generate enough scraps, stick that bag in the freezer instead. When a gallon zip-close bag is more than half full, you’re ready to make stock.
- I make stock in a large pot and freeze it for later use. If you’re using a smaller pot, use less water. If you just want enough for a specific recipe, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Clearer stock has better flavor, which means straining before freezing and/or using. To make straining easier, pull out the large pieces before you pour the liquid through a strainer. All of the scraps can be added to your compost; they’ll break down even more quickly now that they’ve been cooked.
- This recipe makes a fairly light stock, which I find highly versatile: I use it when steaming rice or cooking risotto, making a cream sauce, or preparing a marinade. If you’re looking for a more flavorful stock, char the vegetable scraps in a dry cast iron skillet or on the grill for 1–2 minutes at high heat, just until they begin to blacken on the edges.
Twice as Tasty
There is one vegetable I always try to add fresh and whole to stocks: potatoes. That’s primarily because potatoes can get another chance after they’ve played their role in stock. When I’m straining out the mushy veg from cooled stock and transferring it to the compost, I make sure to set the potatoes aside. They’ll have softened and started to lose their skins, but they’ll also have absorbed the other flavors of the stock. With a little heat and oil, you can restore a crisp outer layer to these preboiled potatoes.
The second reason I rarely put just potato peels into my stocks is that I tend to cook and eat them in their skins. My main exception is Homemade Potato Gnocchi. If you’re peeling potatoes for such a dish, by all means save the peels for your next stock.
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