Being a better cook is more than mastering recipes. It’s also getting the most from your food, wasting little and re-purposing leftovers in creative, even ingenious ways. Below, Food reporters and editors share their ideas for improving kitchen storage and using up odds and ends. Have a suggestion? Post it in the comments section.
Give vegetables some space. A crowded vegetable crisper is soon a rotten one. Allow air to circulate. Most vegetables are best left in plastic bags that are open and punched with holes. (Onions and potatoes are outliers. Leave them in a cabinet or pantry, alone in the dark, away from the other vegetables and each other.)
Wrap lettuce and cucumbers well in paper towels and refrigerated in plastic bags. For best results, wrap cucumbers individually.
Rinse herbs lightly, roll them in paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag with the top left open. Or, if you have shelf space in your refrigerator, trim the ends off a bunch, put it in a glass of water like a bouquet, and cover with a plastic bag.
Sauté lettuce that has begun to wilt in olive oil and season with garlic or shallot.
Blanch and then purée carrot tops into chimichurri or pesto. For chimichurri, blend with red wine vinegar, olive oil, herbs and garlic or shallots. For pesto, blend with olive oil, pine nuts and a hard cheese like Parmesan. Use it to top fish, season soup or sauce pasta. (Taste the tops first; if they’re very bitter, blanch more than once.) Radish tops and roasted asparagus bottoms are good for pesto, too.
Eat carrot tops in a seaweed-like salad: blanch once or twice, then toss in sesame oil and soy sauce.
Garnish foods with fennel fronds, celery leaves and carrot tops (used sparingly).
Chop and sauté radish tops or turnip tops. Add a poached or fried egg. Call it breakfast.
Stop peeling so many of your vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, cucumbers and many others are just fine to eat with a good scrub.
Make chocolate mousse with overripe avocados: purée with melted chocolate chips, almond or cow’s milk, cocoa powder, a little sweetener and vanilla. Or mash them with a little lime juice and freeze for an instant guacamole base. Or blend with spinach or basil, olive oil and herbs to make a sauce for pasta. Or add to salad dressing and purée for a thicker emulsion.
Boil carrots and blend with a neutral oil, a little garlic and a hard-boiled egg for a fluffy alternative to mayonnaise.
Save vegetables (or use up kale stems and cucumber butts) with a quick pickle. Pour a boiling mixture of white vinegar, sugar, salt and water and some herbs or peppers or garlic. Refrigerate. Make a steak salad and add some sliced pickled vegetables.
Keep the stems from cilantro or parsley, along with celery leaves, onion peels, mushroom stems and the like in a bag or bowl in the refrigerator or freezer. When you have enough, simmer into a stock for risotto or soup.