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Our grandmothers knew that a handful of unwanted carrot trimmings or fresh herbs could add up to something delicious, and so do our food editors. The 42 Burners team is all about root-to-stem, nose-to-tail cooking. So take a cue from those who let nothing go to waste, and follow these tips to make something that’s greater than the sum of its (leftover) parts.
Vegetable Peels and Scraps
Freeze vegetable peels and chicken scraps in a resealable plastic bag. When it’s full, use the contents to make stock. Aromatic vegetables (carrots, celery, garlic, onions, shallots) work best. Cover the trimmings with water, and simmer for 2 hours, skimming the surface frequently. Strain, and let cool completely. Senior editor Lauryn Tyrell even includes the onion skins. "They don't add a significant amount of flavor, but they definitely give the final stock a more delicious, golden color," she says. "Just make sure to wash the onions well if using the skins."
Nuts spoil quickly; if you bought more than you need, try puréeing some into a spread. Use raw or toasted nuts of one type or any combination—throw whatever you have on hand into a food processor with a sprinkling of salt, and blend for a few minutes, just until smooth. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Nearly any leftover herb can make a fine sauce for pasta or roasted potatoes, or a delicious sandwich spread. Mix unused herbs from various recipes, such as basil, parsley, chives, and oregano, and purée them in a food processor with a handful of Parmesan cheese, 1 garlic clove, salt, and enough olive oil to make a paste.
And don’t throw out those parsley stems! Editor at large Shira Bocar likes to finely chop them and add to potato salad for crunch. For herbs that are too strongly flavored for this faux-pesto, such as rosemary or thyme, Lauryn will often simmer the hardy stems with citrus peels and ginger scraps in a pot of water on the stovetop to deodorize the air (like a DIY air freshener!).
Leftover chocolate? It could happen. Save pieces until you have a sizable stash. Cut them into chunks, and use them in any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Or whip up a batch of hot fudge sauce—Shira likes to keep a jar in the fridge at all times.
Assistant editor Lindsay Strand hangs onto Parmesan rinds to drop into a pot of greens or pasta sauce for an extra hit of umami or to infuse soups or stocks. Store these back-pocket flavor bombs in the freezer. Got leftover nubs of cheese as well? Grate them for what Shira calls a “fridge frittata”: “I usually use the ratio of 6 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, salt and pepper, and about 2 cups of chopped leftovers (veg are great!) along with the cheese.”
Yes, there is something you can make with those seeds and pulp! Gather them in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, set over a bowl, and let sit overnight. The resulting tomato water is incredible in a summery take on a martini, blended into gazpacho, or mixed into salad dressing or salsa. Lauryn even has a solution for tomato vines: "add them to tomato soup or pasta sauce. My culinary instructor used to do this in Italy—he swore it enhanced the tomato flavor of a dish."
Pulse pieces of stale bread in a food processor, then toast to make breadcrumbs to top pastas and salads. They'll also last in the freezer for several months.
If you’re using only the florets, you’re missing out. The nutritious leaves can be cooked with the florets. The stem, meanwhile, once peeled of its woody outer layer, has a fresh, sweet taste and can be eaten raw or cooked. You can run a peeler down the stems to create paper-thin ribbons, and toss them raw with sesame oil and soy sauce, or olive oil and lemon juice. Or cut the stems into thin slices at an angle and cook them with the florets and leaves.
Vanilla beans are too precious to toss after scraping out the seeds. Use the spent pods to infuse sugar—it makes an excellent sweetener for everything from coffee to baked goods. Watch this tip in action above!