Waste not, eat well!
The most exciting part of summer is the bounty of fruit and vegetables it gives us. Fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, strawberries and herbs taste just as they should. Often, we don’t realize how many parts of the plant end up in the compost that could be incorporated into delicious recipes, like the ones below. Carrot and radish tops, beet greens and herb stems are just a few of the items that often get discarded. They are nutritious and delicious and often come attached to the vegetables you’re buying (or growing). They may require a little more love, but it’s well worth it.
Fresh herbs can truly make or break a dish. They add intense flavor to whatever you’re cooking. Often, their stems are discarded. Dill, basil, parsley, cilantro and chervil have tender, juicy stems that are full of flavor. They can be added to pestos, salads, soups and other cooked dishes. Cilantro and parsley have particularly flavorful roots. When cleaned well, they are great added to soups and stews. Bang them with the back of your knife to release their aromas before adding them to whatever you’re making, and remove and discard them before serving. Herbs like rosemary and thyme have woody stems, which are not great for eating but can add great flavor to soups and stews. Rosemary branches can also be used as skewers to add more flavor to barbecued meats and vegetables.
Basil and Parsley Stem Pesto
This pesto is made by finely chopping the ingredients rather than placing them in a food processor. It makes the pesto hearty and crunchy and adds beautiful texture and flavor to any dish. This recipe works great as a dressing for salads and vegetables or spooned over roasted chicken, grilled steak and fish.
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
- 1 cup parsley stems, finely chopped
- ½ cup basil stems, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir.
What may seem laborious can actually have a big culinary payoff. Carrot tops are reminiscent of parsley but with a slight carrot flavor. They are great eaten raw in pestos and salads. They can also be added to stocks to add flavor or sautéed with garlic and olive oil and eaten warm.
There are a couple of tips when using carrot tops in a recipe. First, look for the parts of the carrot tops that are tender and bright green. When carrots get bigger, their tops are woody and less palatable. The thin green sprigs are the sweetest and have the most flavor. Next, when cooking with carrot tops, wash them very well before using them. They are really dirty and need to be rinsed two or three times.
This salsa verde recipe is delicious on roasted chicken, steak, grilled vegetables and even scrambled eggs. It’s also perfect as a dip with crudités. Keep it in your fridge for two or three weeks and use it liberally on anything to add fresh, salty deliciousness to whatever you’re eating.
CARROT TOP SALSA VERDE
- 2 cups carrot tops, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 3 anchovy fillets
- ½ jalapeño, seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- ½ cup fresh chives
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- Place carrot tops, capers, anchovy fillets, jalapeño, garlic cloves, chives and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
- Remove mixture from food processor and add to a bowl or jar. Stir in olive oil and lemon juice.
Similar to Swiss chard and kale, beet greens pack a lot of flavor and nutrients. They are a great source of iron, calcium and magnesium. They taste mild, like beets, and have a deep, earthy flavor, like spinach. Just like carrot tops, beet greens need a good rinse or two to remove the dirt. When they’re small and tender, they are great eaten raw in salads. The big, heartier leaves make a great addition to stir-fries or taste great sautéed with olive oil.
Beet Green and Ricotta Galette
The rich, earthy flavor of beet greens pairs beautifully with creamy cheeses, such as goat cheese and ricotta. This very simple galette recipe has layers of lemony ricotta and garlicky, tender beet greens baked into buttery puff pastry.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2½ cups beet greens, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup ricotta
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, defrosted (10 to 12 inches in diameter)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp honey
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium. Add sliced garlic and cook until fragrant and translucent.
- Add beet greens and cook until tender and deep green, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
- Remove beet greens from heat and let cool.
- Mix ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and lemon zest in a small bowl.
- Roll out puff pastry into a 12-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet.
- Spread cheese mixture over the centre of the pastry, leaving a 1½-inch border around the edge. Layer beet greens over the cheese mixture, discarding any liquid at the bottom the pan.
- Fold up the edges of the pastry.
- Mix egg yolk with 1 tbsp water. Brush egg wash over pastry.
- Bake galette in oven until pastry is golden brown, abut 20 minutes. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and enjoy.