Want to spend less on groceries and help the environment? Area chefs are sending out an SOS, asking home cooks to “save our scraps.”
“The celery butts, the mushroom stems — all those things are great for stock,” explained executive chef Chiwishi Joy Abney, an instructor at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne. “I take my scraps and I save them. I freeze them until I’m ready.”
So does chef Art Roman of The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli because food waste, he said, “drives me nuts.”
Roman thinks outside the trash can, freezing everything from Parmesan rinds to shrimp peels to corn cobs.
“That’s going to save you a ton of money at the grocery store instead of buying stock,” Abney advised. “Very rarely do we throw anything away. We reuse and reuse until we can’t reuse anymore.”
Another suggestion: Skip the peeler.
“I encourage people to bake with the (apple) skins on and not peel carrots for like carrot soup,” said registered dietitian Emma Fogt.
Also try cooking carrots tops or beet greens.
“Beet greens are high in vitamins and antioxidants and can be prepared just like Swiss chard or kale,” described Amy Johnson, agriculture director for Greener Partners in Collegeville. “They cook up into the most tender greens, and the stems are far more tender than those of kale and collards.”
Reducing waste can be tasty and trendy.
“It’s certainly become a chic thing nowadays,” said Denise Polk, a professor at West Chester University. There’s “a lot of movement to use what would otherwise be thrown away.”
Leftovers included.“I am sometimes still startled by the number of people I know who say, ‘I don’t do leftovers,’” she added. “Be smarter about purchasing, so you’re using up what is consumable.”
Back at the Wayne Art Center, students arrived for a private cooking class to find their ingredients on trays, ready to go. What little waste remains a fellow teacher collects for compost.
“We’re thankful for her because that helps,” Abney said with a smile.
Food waste pilot programDid you know?
“About a third of the food produced for human consumption in the United States goes to waste. And about 95-percent of that either goes to a landfill or gets incinerated,” explained Denise Polk, a professor at West Chester University awarded two grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.
She’s working with West Chester Borough and its Business Improvement District on a pilot program composting food waste from restaurants and other facilities.
One day, Polk envisions curbside pickup for residents too. Meanwhile, she encourages people to shop smarter and donate extra food.
“We have big plans,” Polk said.
Vegetable BrothWe recommend using up all of your veggie kitchen scraps by making a broth bag. Save roots, stalks, leaves, ends and peelings from vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and asparagus. Corn cobs, winter squash skins, beet greens and herbs like parsley and cilantro are also good additions. Scraps from the following vegetables are better off going into the compost bin, as their flavors can be too overpowering: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes.
Freeze your bag of accumulating scraps. Once the bag is full, add to a stock pot and cover with water. Less water means that your stock will be more concentrated; more water makes a lighter-flavored stock. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to just under a boil. Let simmer and cook for about an hour. Take the pot off the stove and remove all the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Set your strainer over a big bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Pour the stock through. Divide the stock into storage containers, cool completely and then freeze.
Beet GreensFinely chop 1 bunch of beet greens and stems. Finely chop 1 clove garlic and 1 large shallot or ½ medium yellow onion and cook in about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, covered, until softened. Add the chopped stems, ¼ cup water and a generous pinch of salt or two and simmer covered, until the stems are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the greens and cook, covered, until tender, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cover until ready to eat.
RECIPES COURTESY OF GREENER PARTENERS