For a lot of people, recycling has become second nature. Separating glass bottles, plastic take-out containers and cardboard from the rest of your trash is something you probably do without thinking about it. But when it comes to food waste, it's a different story.
"In the United States, over one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for improved food security, economic growth, and environmental prosperity," according to the Department of Agriculture.
How often do you come home from the supermarket or the farmers market and throw out the leafy green tops of beets, carrots or leeks? When you open your refrigerator and discover bits of vegetables, herbs and leftover meat or poultry, what happens? If you're like most people, that stuff ends up in the trash or the compost bin.
Earth Day is a good time to develop new habits for reducing the amount of food we waste, and making better use of ingredients, especially parts of vegetables, that most of us routinely throw away.
What follows are three recipes using ingredients most cooks throw out, as well as ideas for soups and stocks you can make using leftover vegetables or chicken.
You buy a bunch of carrots. You twist off the greens at the top and throw them into the garbage or compost. STOP! Those carrot greens make a delicious pesto. Simply whirl carrot greens with pistachios (or any other favorite nut), olive oil, salt, pepper and grated Parmesan.
Roast the carrots and serve topped with the pesto. Carrot top pesto also works well on pasta, in risotto and as a topping for grilled or roasted fish, poultry or meat.
For the roast carrots:
For the carrot top pesto:
*If you have the time, lightly toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes. Cool before using.
Unless you grew up in the South, you probably throw away your beet greens — those stunning pink and green leaves attached to your beets. Big mistake! Not only are beet greens good for you (full of antioxidants), but they have a sweet flavor and the vibrant pink-maroon stems are crunchy and sweet. Beet greens are delicious steamed or sautéed with oil and garlic.
Here, I sauté them and then add them to a simple savory muffin mixture flavored with sharp cheddar cheese and spring chives. These muffins can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Makes 12 muffins.
Vegetable rolls are a great way to use up leftover bits and pieces you find in your vegetable bin. Although I've written a traditional recipe here, the ingredients you use in these spring rolls are wide open to interpretation. The idea is to use up anything you find in your kitchen.
I looked in my fridge the other night and discovered cooked chicken leftovers from taco night, quick pickles I made from local radishes, sprigs of fresh mint and cilantro, some slightly sad looking (but still crunchy) cucumbers and carrots.
What else could you add? The possibilities are endless: leftover cooked shrimp, fish, thin slices of cooked meat, grated beets, shredded cabbage, red pepper strips, slices of avocado, lettuce. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
*Clean the carrot well and then use a wide vegetable peeler and peel the carrots. You want the peelings for the recipe.
Peanut dipping sauce:
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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