Stop! In the name of vegetables. Before you throw out - or even compost - those kale stems from your morning smoothie, imagine the many recipes you could create with them! Okay, so that might be a stretch but have no fear because the zero waste food movement is gaining momentum and before you know it, you will be cooking with celery leaves daily.
We waste a lot of food. The USDA estimates that in America, we waste 40 percent of the food we grow and 31 percent of that waste is at the retail and consumer level. So what can we do? On January 29th, City Market community members gathered at the Community Teaching Kitchen, located at our South End store in Burlington, for a class on minimal waste cooking. The class was taught by Meredith Knowles, former Outreach and Education Coordinator here at City Market, who is currently pursuing a dietetics degree at the University of Vermont. Folks came to the class from a variety of backgrounds and interests varying from pure curiosity to individuals who were interested in adopting a zero waste lifestyle.
To start, Meredith asked class participants, “Why do we throw away or compost food?” Some responses were:
- It may be bitter, like root veggie greens
- It may be tough, like vegetable stalks
- It may have gone bad, like any rotten food
- Or it might actually be the cultural norm. Meredith mentioned that in East Africa the norm is to eat celery leaves and throw away the stalk. That means no ants on a log, can you imagine?
The goal of the class was to show participants three simple, healthy recipes that focus on creatively using commonly discarded food parts. The three dishes we made together were, Pickle Juice Brined Chicken over Sautéed Forgotten Greens, Swiss Chard Stalk Hummus and Aquafaba Macaroons. Participants helped with everything from cleaning and seasoning the chicken, chopping the Swiss chard and garlic, measuring out ingredients into the blender to make the hummus, and mixing and forming the macaroons! Speaking of the macaroons, these simple, four-ingredient macaroons include aquafaba. Meredith explained that the term aqufaba, which translates to bean water, is the liquid that beans have been cooked in and is an excellent egg substitute for vegan baking! With a little bit of preparation and planning ahead, you can use your leftover bean liquid to make a delicious treat. Interested in the recipes above? Here is a link to the menu from the class.
Throughout the class, Meredith gave tips and tricks to minimize food waste. Here are some highlights:
- Use complementary flavors to enhance what you desire or create balance
- Add salt and garlic to bitter greens for salty/umami, and/or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for acid
- Blanch tough vegetables to soften
- Use low and slow heat to tenderize
- Use mechanical techniques to tenderize protein (pounding)
- Use acid to tenderize (like our pickle juice!)
What can be repurposed that I am used to throwing away?
- Broccoli stalks--> Treat them like you would kohlrabi (they taste really similar!) They are great roasted or done up in a stir fry. Throw them in the pan along with similarly-textured vegetables, like carrots. They do take longer to soften up than the crowns.
- Carrot tops --> Turn them into a pesto. While no one is trying to fool you into thinking they are the same as basil, you’ll get a really delicious spread that you can toss a pasta salad in, or top a pesto pizza. Those carrot tops are earthy in flavor, so your pesto (or other recipe!) will benefit from acid, like lemon juice, and something salty, like a nice hard cheese.
- Leftover herbs --> It can be difficult to use up an entire bunch of herbs before they wilt. If you think they’ll go bad before you can use them up, freeze them in ice cube trays topped with olive oil. When you’re ready to use them, add an herb-oil cube or two to a hot pan and get cooking.
- Vegetable scraps --> When you’re tossing an onion skin here and a carrot end there, it doesn’t feel like much. We all know that we can make our own veggie stock, but did you know that you can freeze the little bits of scraps that you collect over time until you have enough? Just throw them in a tupperware or bag that can handle the freezer, and save your scraps until you have what you need for a batch of stock.
- Bones --> Create a meat broth! Like the veggies, you can freeze bones until you’re ready to use them. You can roast them first to get the best flavor.
At the end of the evening participants enjoyed a delicious minimal waste meal together. Everyone raved about how amazing the (vegan and gluten-free) macarons were, yum! In conclusion, we as consumers, waste a lot of food, so as Meredith put it, “what you do at home, actually makes a difference.”
Want to learn more about food waste? Here are a few resources to dive into:
1. Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan
3. Solving the Problem of Food Waste Washington Post
Interested in taking a class with Meredith? Look for her class series, No Fuss Kitchen, which is all about making healthy, simple, minimal-fuss dishes.
Checkout more of City Market’s classes and events, here. We offer classes at both the Downtown and South End store. See you there!