This is a perfect opportunity to practice whole-vegetable cookery. Whether you’re dealing with chard or broccoli stems, or the heel-end of a bunch of celery, these scraps may look unattractive, but they are just as nutritious as the rest of the vegetable and contain lots of fiber. It just takes a little knowledge of how to make them tender.
Take broccoli stems. How many times have you tossed them into the waste bin? I slice off the tough exterior to get at the creamy, subtly-flavored inner flesh. I then use a vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons that can be cooked al dente to resemble pasta. The texture is succulent, and because of its mildness, it is a perfect backdrop for some of winter’s more robust flavors. Cauliflower stems work too, as do the leaf stalks of winter greens like chard, kale, and beets, although they require a longer braising time to soften.
Celeriac (a round, knobbly, hairy root vegetable that is also known as celery root) is my favorite winter ingredient. It offers a bright note in the middle of a season marked by heavier root vegetables. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find, but I’ve discovered that nestled right at the end of a standard bunch of celery is a root nub that when cooked tastes pretty much the same as celeriac. First I cut the stalks to about an inch off the root end. Then, using a veggie peeler, I shave away the tough exterior to reveal a fragrant root that is perfect for oven roasting. The flavor is reminiscent of celery but with a caramelized sweetness. Toss together some winter ingredients like blue cheese and hazelnuts, and your guests will be asking you what this intriguing new ingredient is. Make up a fancy name or tell them exactly what it is. Just don’t tell them you got it from the waste bin.
Try these recipes: