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How to Use "Root to Stem" Cooking to Cut Down On Food Waste

Photo: Flaffy / Shutterstock

Tons of perfectly edible food is thrown away every year—1.3 billion tons to be exact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. On the bright side, people are increasingly interested in cutting down on wasted food. The Specialty Food Association Trendspotter panel noticed a growing popularity of cutting back on food waste, and included both upcycled products and "root to stem" cooking in its list of the top 10 predicted food trends of 2018. (Here are the top five food trends of 2017 that are still going strong.)

Need some inspo? Since a lot of food tends to get thrown away at restaurants, chefs are thinking of creative (and delicious) ways to cut down on food waste. Steal their tips for making the most of every ingredient.

Maximize Your Produce

The easiest way to cook with scraps: Don't remove them in the first place. "Many vegetables are just as delicious roasted with their peels, like carrots, beets, potatoes, parsnips, and winter squashes," says Andrea Nordby, head chef of Purple Carrot. "Just make sure to wash them well." Nordby also recommends saving the leaves you normally throw away. "A lot of people waste the greens on top of popular foods like beets, carrots, or radishes, but you can put them in salads, add them to pesto or a Moroccan chermoula, sauté them with a bit of lemon or vinegar and olive oil, or put them in wraps," she says. (Or make one of these 10 beet green recipes.)

Make a Sauce or Broth

Start a stockpile of vegetable castaways to use in a homemade vegetable broth. "Cauliflower or broccoli stems usually get thrown out, but I freeze them and make a sauce later," says Spike Mendelsohn, D.C., restaurateur and chef. Just sauté some onion and garlic in olive oil, add the stems, and cook them down. "Add a little cream and some stock, then purée." From there you can use the purée as a sauce or thin it into a soup, he says.

Reinvent Meat Scraps

Stop throwing out your steak trimmings. "At the restaurant, we trim scraps off our flatiron steak and boil them until they're soft," says Jaime Young, chef and partner at Sunday in Brooklyn. Then, Young drains the liquid to use as beef stock, and cooks down the boiled scraps with oil in a pan at low heat until they become crunchy crumbles. "Perfect for topping salads or pasta."

You can also blend leftover citrus peels into a powder to use for seasoning, and dehydrate pepper scraps to use in a togarashi spice seasoning, Young says. (Want more ideas? Here are 10 tasty ways to use food scraps.)

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