FIGHTING FOOD WASTE
Stems, peels and other scraps add delicious new flavours to old dishes
When you look at beet stems or orange peels, do you see scraps or culinary building blocks?
From trimmings and tops to skin and scales, home cooks have much to gain by reconsidering byproducts. After all, it’s not food waste until it hits the bin. With a fresh perspective, previously overlooked ingredients can add new dimensions of flavour and texture.
By now, you’ve likely seen the statistics. According to Love Food Hate Waste Canada, nearly half of the country’s food waste occurs at home, where 63 per cent of trashed food is perfectly edible. The average Canadian household tosses upward of $1,100 worth of food per year, which adds up to more than $17 billion nationwide.
Chefs are uniquely suited to tackle the issue of avoidable food waste, says Alison Tozzi Liu, the James Beard Foundation’s (JBF) vice-president of marketing, communications and editorial.
“Chefs in restaurants use all parts of ingredients. Partially because they give a lot of flavour but partially because restaurants operate on such slim profit margins. You don’t just throw away half of something. You use it. You use all of it.”
For its new cookbook, Waste Not (Rizzoli New York, 2018), the nonprofit culinary arts organization enlisted alumni of its Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change to educate home cooks on thrift and creativity in the kitchen. Chefs including Tiffany Derry and Rick Bayless contributed 100 full-use recipes and cooking tips, which cast oft-undervalued ingredients in a new light.
Tough kale stems become buttery crackers. An abundance of cores, leaves and stalks is turned into a flavour-rich kimchee. Proteinpacked whey, a byproduct of cheese- and yogurt-making, gives grits or any other grain “an extra nutritional and gustatory boost.” An orange and almond cake from food writer and cook James Beard uses the whole fruit, flesh, pith and peel. Eggshells are the only waste from the entire recipe.
Derry, a Top Chef All- Star based in Dallas, Texas, was inspired to get involved with the issue after learning the sheer volume of food that ends up in American landfills — up to 40 per cent of all produce grown annually.
Last year, she met with members of Congress to push for changes in food-waste labelling, and she’s also part of JBF’s new multi-year movement, Waste Not Wednesday, which aims to encourage people to make small changes one day a week.
“Education is a really big part of it. I think people just don’t know how and what to do. ‘ You tell me to use the food and that I shouldn’t waste it, but what do I do with it? Are you going to come cook it for me, chef?’ ” Derry says with a laugh.
“People sometimes think that it’s the whole world. You’re like, ‘It’s just so big.’ But you just do your part. You concentrate on what you can do and who you affect, and that’s when the change happens.” Recipes from Waste Not by the James Beard Foundation, published by Rizzoli New York.