Thursday, January 19, 2012

JOT #27: Cook with scraps

As a save-the-last-bit-of-toothpaste kind of girl, one of my favorite things is to make stuff out of things I would otherwise throw away. You could, of course, make a simple broth with your food scraps, or do the slightly more interesting scrap vinegar, but why not cook up something more daring, with panache, with aplomb! Case in point: butternut squash...peels.

Peels, you're thinking. Really? A Google search for "butternut squash skin" leaves you only with the notion that it is edible. But what to make out of it? Traditional Indian recipes call for a type of chutney known as "thohaiyal" - and it can be made with lots of different things, like regular vegetables, the peel of a chayote, or of ridge gourd, of an orange (preferably mandarin, but any). But you can extend that to watermelon (including the white and green parts), or...yes, butternut squash. Presumably pumpkin as well!

Here are a few of my favorite cook-with-scraps recipes. You may also want to peruse this inspiring article on cooking with "trash."

Simple vegetable broth - this is best done by saving up scraps or on a day when you have a lot of them. Save them up, boil them up while onions are sauteeing for a soup, for example, then strain the broth directly into the pan. Or you can keep it in the fridge a few days, or freeze it into an ice cube tray and put in a bag for later.

Vegetable scraps
Salt to taste
Herbs (parsley, celery leaves, etc, optional)

Put scraps in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Add herbs if desired. Bring to boil and simmer 1/2 to 1 hr partially covered. Strain and season as desired.
Scrap vinegar - No Impact Man made this famous. His recipe is here. (Please note: I haven't made this myself!)

Peel Thohaiyal (adapted from here)

Skin of chayote, butternut squash, ridge gourd, watermelon, orange peel*, etc – 1 cup
Curry leaves – a few, optional
Tamarind – a marble-sized piece or more, or 1 tsp paste
Black gram (urad dal) – 1/4 cup
Asafoetida – a dash
Red chillies – 2-3, optional (for my little one, I halve one dry red chili and discard the seeds)
Salt – to taste
Refined oil – 1 tbsp

Sauté the black gram in a little oil with asafoetida and red chillies until the gram turns reddish brown. Pour into grinder and let cool.

Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté the peel with curry leaves (omit leaves for butternut squash). Add water if needed, cover, and let cook until tender. Turn off heat and add tamarind so that it softens in the heat (if using fresh tamarind).

Put peel mix into blender with dal, a small amount of water and salt. (*Note: for orange peel, don't grind. Instead, chop peel into tiny pieces, removing any strings or fibers. You may also wish to add 1 tsp of sugar or jaggery if orange peel is bitter) Grind to a smooth paste. Refrigerate or freeze. Serve as a side chutney or mixed into rice with a drizzle of oil.
Watermelon Rind Sambar - follow any sambar recipe and use the watermelon rind as the vegetable. Separate the pink and the green parts (you can use the green for thohaiyal, and if you have enough pink sweet watermelon, make a soup!).

Watermelon Rind Petha - A long process but an amazing dish traditionally made with a type of squash known as marrow/doodhi. You could make it with apples or any fleshy/translucent fruit or veggie. I didn't use the rosewater or cardamom but you could.

1 medium watermelon rind - green parts peeled away, cubed into large pieces
3 cups sugar
1tsp + 2tsp lemon juice
3 cups water
1 tsp rosewater (optional)
3 cardamoms, peeled and seeds powdered (optional)

Prick cubes of rind with a fork. In a bowl, cover rind pieces with water and add lemon juice. Soak 2 hrs, then rinse (toss water). Drain and squeeze out water gently. In a saucepan, cover pieces with water and boil until they turn translucent and are tender.

In the meantime, mix sugar, 3 cups water, 2 tsp lemon juice and cardamom if using and simmer to make a syrup of one-thread consistency (forms a thread between two fingers when pressed and pulled apart). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the rind pieces to the syrup, and simmer a few minutes. Add rosewater if using. Mix well, then turn off heat.

After the rind cools, remove from syrup and transfer to parchment or foil. Let dry (over at least a day) until it is dry and chewy.

Carrot Greens Pesto - this is a simple pesto you could make with any greens - kale, collards, or whatever you have. It is hard to guess with carrot greens, nearly impossible with fennel greens, and a true ringer for pure basil in a mix. Choose either pine nuts or walnuts. Avoid substituting non-olive oil for the best taste. This can also go in an ice cube tray or container to freeze.

Bread Upma - I don't often buy sliced bread, but sometimes I bake and there is way too much bread left over before it will spoil (it's just a cereal week). So I love to make bread upma. You can make it two ways, dry or wet. I prefer the dry, but you might prefer wet!

Leftover bread (about 1 loaf), sliced
1/2-1 onion, minced
1T oil, plus more
mustard seeds (optional)
turmeric, dash
vegetables (optional)
1 tsp curry or chili powder
salt to taste

Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they pop, add turmeric, chili powder, and salt. Add onions and saute until they brown. Add vegetables if desired and saute until they are cooked, a few minutes (you may wish to precook some firmer veggies). Proceed as below for dry or wet.

Cube the bread and toss with a drizzle of oil. Add to the pan of spices. Mix well to coat until bread is toasted and fragrant. Serve with a chutney.

Tear bread or cube roughly. Add 2 cups hot (preferably boiling) water to pan of spices. Stir to mix and return to boil. Add bread and stir rapidly so that it is all combined and wet. Keep stirring until the porridge-like mixture becomes more solid, until nearly crumbly (this will take some elbow grease!).

Other things you can use for cooking:
  • any citrus peel (candied, dried for tea, in chutneys and marmalade)
  • broccoli stems and stems of most greens (tough kale stems i use only for broth)
  • cabbage and cauliflower stems and leaves (chop and saute like greens)
  • radish greens, broccoli leaves, celery greens (yup, they're greens!)
  • corn cobs (simmer to release the juices)
  • orange and lemon leaves (dry or powder whole with salt and tamarind and chilies for a spicy condiment)
  • seeds of watermelon or any squash (roast and salt)
  • pizza and other bread crusts (freeze then saute up in upma or bread pudding, of course you can also save crumbs)
  • peels of potatoes and sweet potatoes, soft peels of squashes (make a chutney, or roast with salt and eat with dip)

See also for more recipes.

1 comment:

rani said...

One more great recipe to try with butternut squash skins or butternut squash and pumpkin peels - make them crispy!