GOOD

Eat Your Veggie Guts: How Table Scraps Are Making A Culinary Comeback

Why make stock when you can make ice cream?

Hotel Herman turns cucumber skins into delicious dust. Photo by Dominiq Goyet

While the term “vegan butcher” may evoke exaggerated eye-rolls, another, similar term recently made the rounds at the UK’s Oxford Food Symposium: vegetable offal.


When processing vegetables, restaurants typically create environmentally disastrous piles of waste stalks, peelings, cores and leaves headed for compost, or worse, the landfill. Reacting to the veggie carnage, Chef Dan Barber launched last year’s WastED, a three-week food waste-themed pop-up in New York City, while San Francisco’s Salvage Supperclub is an ongoing pop-up series hosted in a repurposed dumpster, where chefs serve meals made from discarded food.

While offal—used to describe the entrails, organs, or “extra” cuts in butchering—isn’t quite the perfect term, it’s clear that a new contingent of innovative chefs are looking at veggies in a whole new light, searching for original flavors, surprising textures, and thrifty ways to lighten their environmental footprint. Let’s be honest: carrot frond pesto is so 2014. These dishes are the new wave of delicious vegetable recycling.

Amass's condiment with potato bread. Photo via Amass

Condiment And Coffee Grinds Crisps

Chef Matt Orlando and his team at Amass in Copenhagen are always experimenting with unloved ingredients to unlock their undiscovered potential.

"It's exciting, because you have to start thinking in a completely different way, and once you do that, it's a good place to be," he says.

One prime example is their “condiment,” which is served with potato bread instead of butter. Made with various leafy greens or outer cabbage leaves, it’s a pot of spicy, herbaceous flavour. "Every turnip top, everything, none of that gets thrown away,” says Orlando.

“The condiment is constantly evolving because of the leafy trim we have around the kitchen."

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]It's like a vegetarian veal sweetbread.[/quote]

Then, there’s their crackers, made from leftover coffee grinds from the restaurant. Dried overnight, grounds are milled to a fine flour, mixed with oats, cooked with leftover coffee into a porridge and made into crispy flatbread. One version of the dish, which arrives at the end of a meal, is served with a charred marshmallow flavoured with ash from burnt tea leaves—also leftovers from the previous night’s meal. Consider it a modern, eco-friendly s’more.

However, diners aren’t typically told about the kitchen’s low-waste techniques. But if not, why do it at all?

“Because it's how chefs are going to have to cook in the future," he says. "It's the heyday right now, when we can get whatever we want whenever we want. That's going to change real fast. I just want to be proactive."

At Montreal's Hotel Herman, cucumber skin gets powdered to pack an umami punch. Photo by Dominiq Goyet

Dehydrated Cucumber Skin Powder

After peeling cucumbers and compressing them in sous-vide bags for cucumber served with oyster emulsion, Montreal restaurant Hotel Herman’s Chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier saves the skins, then grills and dehydrates them into a garnishing powder. This builds in another level of flavor from the same ingredient, and looks handsome on the plate to boot.

[quote position="left" is_quote="false"]Let’s be honest: carrot frond pesto is so 2014.[/quote]

“The idea is not necessarily use vegetable off-cuts but to use as much as we can from the products we are already using,” says Mercier. “We do this to show how vegetables are versatile and explore the different way to showcase them but also as a cooking challenge, as a way to respect the products and the environment.”

For bonus reuse points, this dish is garnished with oil infused with coriander stems.

The Buffalo Jump's fried sunflower heads are well worth the effort. Photo via The Buffalo Jump

Deep-Fried Sunflower Head

Chef Brandon Baltzley, who cooks at The Buffalo Jump in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, first started working with sunflowers in Alberta, where he was introduced to a super-high-quality canola oil.

“I used it as finishing oil for fish and pasta, to keep all my ingredients local, rather than the extra virgin olive oils other chefs use,” he says.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]We do this also as a cooking challenge, as a way to respect the products and the environment.[/quote]

That led to his current interest in sunflower oil, which subsequently led to experiments with the flowers themselves, including drying petals for a powder garnish and crushing stems for vinegar. In this dish, Baltzley treats large, meaty sunflower heads a bit like artichokes, soaking them in milk so they don’t oxidize. Pieces are then breaded with cornmeal and flour, fried in sunflower oil and garnished with a mixture of salt and bee pollen.

“It's like a vegetarian veal sweetbread,” he says.

The dish is then served with aioli made with nasturtium leaves. However, prepping this dish at home isn’t for the faint of heart—Baltzley recommends wearing gloves while handling the flowers, or to have heavy-duty soap on hand for afterwards; the sticky sap they leave on your hands won’t wash out easily.

“They also have loads of ants on them, which if you’re into that sort of thing, you can eat,” he adds. We’d call that next-level bug-to-stem cooking.

Who knew leek roots could look so beautiful? Photo via The Acorn

Cilantro And Wild Leek Roots

Chef Rob Clarke, who helms the kitchen at Vancouver’s The Acorn, has a thing for wild leeks. Before moving west to British Columbia from Ontario, he foraged ten pounds of the leafy green, pureed it into pesto and brought it with him on the airplane. When he’s able to get his hands on some, he uses every inch of the plant, including the roots, which he scrubs and deep-fries.

“It’s almost like fried garlic, if you have them at the correct temperature,” he says. “It’s a great garnish, it adds a nice texture and nutty garlic onion flavor.”

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Usually we end up with at least three to four containers worth of arugula. It’s just downright disrespectful.[/quote]

At his vegetable-forward restaurant, he typically serves the roots as a garnish, for instance, on a ragu of fresh spring vegetables including fiddleheads, asparagus, fresh peas and favas, along with a sauce of blended caramelized honey and nasturtium leaves. They also frequently use long, creamy-white cilantro roots in dressings and sauces, simply because they have “far more flavor and depth” than the rest of the plant.

“It’s a little more difficult to find them,” says Clarke. “If you have a farm you go to or a farmer you know, just ask them to bring the roots next week. I’m sure they’d be happy to sell them to you.”

Why make stock when you can make ice cream? Photo via Union

Fennel-Stalk Sorbet

It’s common to use vegetable ends for stock, but Union’s Chef Bruce Kalman says that’s a cop-out.

“Typically, when a portion of an ingredient is rendered stock-worthy, it’s because we don’t know how to process it to make it user-friendly,” he says. “I find it to be a very creative outlet to figure out how to use the bits and pieces that no one else will.”

That means his fennel stalks—which he says are “really fibrous and hard to eat, even roasted or braised”—aren’t headed straight for the stockpot. Instead, he juices fronds and stalks, making a simple syrup with sugar and lemon juice that is then processed into a garnishing sorbet on Union’s arugula, fennel and citrus salad.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I find it to be a very creative outlet to figure out how to use the bits and pieces that no one else will.[/quote]

Kalman takes wasted and bruised produce very seriously. When he catches young cooks stuffing arugula into their stations, “as if a car crusher was involved,” he tries to make it a teaching moment, dumping it out and dropping it gently back into the container.

“Often cooks have the mentality to fit as much product on their station for service so they are ready for battle,” he says. “Usually we end up with at least three to four containers worth of arugula. It’s just downright disrespectful.”

Food
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics