Loving Roots to Leaves
It began with the quest toward sustainability, but the “roots to leaves” movement has its own momentum now. The reasons? Chefs find creative inspiration in using as much of the produce they buy as possible, as with meat and “nose to tail.” Those who crunch the numbers like how a zero-waste goal impacts a restaurant’s bottom line, in everything from up-front food costs to waste-disposal fees. And customers? All demographics include people who care about cutting their planetary impact. Those focused on healthier eating will be pleased that some of the most nutritious components of plants are on the menu instead of discarded. So whether you advertise your good deeds or not, they’re expected to increase in importance as diners justify going out to eat and decide who to spend their money with.
The Veg Parts
Treat these former castoffs right, and they become exciting ingredients!
- The scrubbed, finely chopped peels from carrots and potatoes simply disappear in things like pasta sauces – but their nutrition stays.
- The green tops (leaves and stems) of carrots, radishes and root veg such as turnips make great pesto.
- The cores of cauliflower and cabbage are delicious; cut into ¼-inch dice to tenderize during cooking; shave, julienne or cut ribbons for on-trend slaws, kraut and kimchi.
- The stems of fresh Markon® veg like mushrooms, chard and broccoli (peel first) have plenty of flavor.
All of the above enhance soups and stews, purées and sauces, fried rice and risotto, and ravioli fillings.
The Fruit Bits
As with vegetables, you’ll add nutrition and lower costs as you go more sustainable. Three examples:
- Pickle those crunchy summertime watermelon rinds!
- Picture the coast of France (like many trend-watching chefs today) and enjoy the rind from Markon® citrus – pith and peel – in your very own house-made marmalade and desserts.
- The skins from Concord grapes can be pulverized and used in housemade jams, dessert sauces and ice creams.
- Veg that are starting to lose their crunch are great for pickling – with fermenting at the forefront of the probiotic/health trend. When you’re done, the pour-off makes a great marinade, poaching liquid or BBQ sauce component. (Because 23% of millennials want more pickled ingredients on menus. *)
- Dehydrate fruit and veg scraps; then grind to a powder for recipe seasoning, to enhance aioli or pizza crust, to finish a dish, or even to color ice cubes.
- Roughly chop those house-dried items instead: Sprinkle veggie pieces over entrees and sides; use fruit for those same dishes plus desserts.
- Make Indian-style chutneys and traditional or gourmet relishes. Very trendy indeed.
- Be Holistic.
- Simply scrub veggies like carrots and thin-skinned squash; cook as desired.
- Include celery leaves in soups, stews and stuffings; add them toward the end in stir-fries; mix with salad greens or make chickpea-celery leaf salad; stir into dips.
- Use apples – core, peel and all – in smoothies; just blend them really well and remove seeds if they don’t incorporate.
- Cauliflower leaves? Yes, please! Wash, trim the woody end, coat with oil and spices and roast at 400 degrees about 15 minutes, until dark and crispy. Great as is, or combine with cauli florets or other veggies for a side. Or, toss with herbs, nuts and vinaigrette. Also a lovely base for steak or fish.
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