Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.
Okay, so, for how long am I allowed to open my column with some reference to my continuing, undiminished excitement to have a working oven? Because I'm still grateful and a little surprised every time I hear that tick-tick-tick-whoosh of the flame igniting, and I may never lose my renewed appreciation for oven cooking. Mainly the part where I put something in the oven and, as I never could with a pan on a hot plate, walk away. 45 minutes later I have food, and that is glorious.
The only problem is all the stalks left behind. They're good enough sliced into discs and roasted along with the florets, but they're not amazing that way, and I'd rather devote baking sheet space to more delectable florets. And so all too often the broccoli stems end up with my eggshells and banana peels, going to compost.
Compost is a very silly – and wasteful, and lazy – fate for perfectly good, edible, healthy vegetable parts. Of course, “edible” isn't exactly high praise, or high incentive for the expenditure of kitchen effort, especially when the couch is so comfy. So here – for you and for me – are five recipes and ideas to keep our broccoli stalks out of the trash, and in our happy mouths and bellies. (They're happy because of the broccoli stalks.
1) Fridge pickles. You can make your own pickling brine, or go even more frugal and reuse the brine from a jar of tasty store-bought pickles. Once in a while I splurge on a jar of Rick's Picks, a delicious NYC brand. (Pickling is very chic among Brooklyn hipsters.) When the pickles are gone there is still plenty of goodness left behind in the brine. Peel your broccoli stalks and slice into spears. Pour the brine into a saucepan and bring to a boil, and wash out the pickle jar. Put the broccoli stalks in the jar, then pour in the brine. (Add some white vinegar and water if there's not enough liquid.) Screw on the lid, and pop that jar in the fridge. After two or three days: pickles!
3) Slaw. Use a mandoline, grater, food processor with a grater wheel, or careful hands and a sharp knife to shred broccoli stems. Add some shredded carrot and mix with your favorite cole slaw dressing.
4) Stir fry. I think part of the reason I love roasting broccoli is that I can never get stir fried broccoli quite right – it's always either underdone or mushy, never as delicious as at a Chinese restaurant or my mom's house. (Mom! What is your secret!) But broccoli stalks – being flatter and more uniform than florets – are a cinch. They make a delicious stir-fry with Chinese flavors – soy sauce, garlic, and five-spice powder are a favorite combination of mine – and cook to a delicious combination of golden exteriors with creamy insides.
5. Soup. Once your favorite cream of broccoli soup (vegan or dairy) is pureed, no one will know if it started as tiny trees or trunks. Ditto chopped up in a quiche or casserole.
That's what I've got so far. (I've also heard that some cats love broccoli, and so also broccoli stalks, but unfortunately my creature isn't inclined to any such adorable predilections.) Do you use – and enjoy – your broccoli stalks? Are there any other often discarded parts of vegetables (or animals) you've got a great use for?