While cooking can produce fabulous dishes necessary for nutrition, a meal to share with loved ones, or something to snack on when you’re bored, it can also create byproducts that we may not quite know what to do with. There can be leftover steaming water, discarded roots and stems and occasionally a large pile of vegetable peels abandoned on the cutting board. While many people deposit these trimmings directly into the compost pile, they can actually be used as ingredients for other tasty dishes.
It’s important to remember that vegetable peels contain a large number of nutrients and pigments that have antioxidants. Colorful peels, like those from carrots, include beneficial phytochemicals, as well as insoluble fiber, which is important for moving food through our intestinal tract smoothly. And potato skins provide more potassium, B vitamins, and iron than the insides!
Of course, there are also nutrients, antioxidants and other healthy goodies in the flesh of vegetables and fruits, but why let their skins go to waste? There are several options for peel uses, all of which are both resourceful and tasty. It’s like recycling, but with food!
Stock or Broth
Stock is an important ingredient in cooking, used in fancy sauces, risotto, and as a soup base. While we are able to purchase pre-made stock from the grocery store, it’s less wasteful packaging-wise, cheaper, and often fun to create your own. And since everything’s boiled and then strained anyways, go ahead and throw those peels in there.
Broth is similar to stock and is made the same way, but is meant to be consumed as is, and not necessarily used as an ingredient to make something else. It’s also full of nutrients from the vegetables, makes a lovely warming dish during cold months, and is a great vegan option to chicken noodle soup when fighting off a head cold or the flu.
Use stock like Oil-Free Vegetable Broth to make delicious dishes such as Saffron Risotto, vegan sauces like Veloute and Espagnole, or indulge in some warming No-Bone Broth while bundled up in a sweater. Need a little help or inspiration? Check out these 5 Tips To Make Your Homemade Broth Better.
Blended soups can also be a great way to use up the leftover peels from vegetables. Since everything is blended up at the end, the taste is not altered, and no one will even notice they’re consuming what could have been scraps.
Toss your carrot peels into Carrot Avocado Ginger Soup and your cucumber trimmings into Creamy Kohlrabi Soup. Remember potato skins don’t necessarily have to go into potato soup, and zucchini peels can add extra nutrients to anything.
Replace Shredded Veggies
Any creation that requires shredded vegetables like burger recipes such as Zucchini Chickpea Burgers or Asian Quinoa Burgers can also include peels. As long as the peels are relatively the same size as the shredded version, the texture provided will be similar. You can use up your trimmings and add some health benefits as well.
And just like burgers, baked goods that call for shredded vegetables can hide peels as well. Carrot Cake With Walnuts anyone? You’ll never guess there are carrot peels hidden inside. Or substitute zucchini for carrots and create something unique like Maple Sweetened Zucchini Donuts.
While you may not be serving yourself or your guests food that could possibly appear on a magazine cover, garnishing dishes gives them a little extra class. Vegetable peels from carrots, cucumber, and zucchini can be used to decorate dishes, as well as peels from apples or oranges.
You might want to chop the peels a bit thinner to achieve an elegant look. You could even use a microplane or zester to create fancy sizes and shapes. Carrot or cucumber peel garnishes look great on stir fry, and could even be used to decorate the soup you created earlier with the rest of the peels.
It is also important to keep in mind that non-organic produce will need to be washed well before peeling. Using vegetable peels in soup or cake is great, but you could probably do without adding the wax and pesticides sometimes found on conventional produce.
You can easily save yourself a trip to the compost bin, create less waste, and delight your loved ones (and your own taste buds) with dishes that are fabulously nutritious and also, well, appealing.
Lead image source: Zucchini and Corn Veggie Burgers