green, roasted beets and goat cheese quesadillas.
ANGELES — Many years ago, I ran into Alain Giraud, one of
the best French chefs in Los Angeles, rummaging through
crates of discarded vegetable greens at the Wednesday Santa
Monica farmers market. This was a good decade before food
waste became the sort of thing people talked about on
high-profile panels and in beautiful documentaries. Giraud
doubtless already knew to use his kitchen’s parsley stems
and fennel fronds in stock, as any classically trained chef
would, so I ducked under the table and asked him what he was
is for my rabbits," the chef said in his thick Parisian
accent, tucking a thatch of bright green carrot tops into
the straw market basket under his arm, along with bouquets
of lavender and chervil.
remember this for many reasons. Because it was incredibly
charming, of course, but also because my daughter used the
story years later to guilt me into letting her get her own
pet rabbits, which we have fed with discarded farmers market
greens ever since. It was also an object lesson in free pet
food and the accidental, often invisible treasures of
farmers markets. Not only can you feed your kid’s
permanently hungry rescued rabbits with the stuff but you
can make your own dinner out of it too.
throw an enormous percentage of food away, not only wasting
food we know about but also food we don’t think of as
being part of the farm-to-table sequence. Sometimes, when I’m
at my neighborhood farmers market pulling beet greens and
carrot tops out of the discard bins behind the produce
stalls, someone will ask me what I’m doing with them. Or,
more often, they’ll ask the nearby farmer whether the tops
of the various vegetables they’re buying are edible.
greens are gorgeous, fragrant, healthful and enormously
flavorful; they’re also endlessly useful in cooking. Not
only do we use herbs and greens in soups, salads, sauces and
stocks, but also in bouquets garnis, as garnishes, even in
cocktails. Why we value some more than others is pretty
relatively recently, many of the pricey, sought-after and
hard-to-find greens at markets were considered weeds:
Farmers used to throw out stinging nettles, lamb’s
quarters and nasturtiums instead of selling them. Similarly,
the green tops of various vegetables were often tossed into
soups or stocks by thrifty cooks, but they’ve now found
their way into mainstream kitchens and restaurant menus,
often by chefs who want to draw attention to the issue of
food waste or who apply nose-to-tail principles to plants.
Of course, many have been using every part of a plant or
vegetable for generations, much as they’ve been foraging
for much longer (decades, millenniums) than it’s been
waste is partly a value judgment about what is desirable and
what is not," Danish chef Mads Refslund, one of the
founders of the Copenhagen restaurant Noma, writes in the
preface to his recent cookbook, "Scraps, Wilt +
Weeds." Refslund includes some pretty desirable dishes
in his book: daikon pea dumplings, spruce sugar cookies and
a pesto made with carrot tops — they taste rather like
bitter frisée, with a hint of, you guessed it, carrot —
that I like to serve with the carrots that come with those
tops, roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt. Refslund
is just one of many notable chefs who are folding recipes
for these forgotten bits into their cookbooks. Portland,
Ore.-based Jenn Louis devotes an entire chapter to them in
her new book, "The Book of Greens." "As a
rule," Louis writes, "don’t overlook anything
green on a root, fruit or vegetable." Among her highly
desirable dishes: pasta made with tomato leaves and sherbet
made from celery leaves.
making dessert out of your rabbits’ food feels a little
too ambitious, treat these greens as you would parsley or
other conventional herbs. Blend them into pesto, salsa verde,
chimichurri and other sauces and salsas. Even simpler: Toss
them directly into salads and maybe whisk some of them into
greens, such as those atop beets, turnips and radishes, can
be wilted and added to soup or pasta or folded into tacos.
Combining the greens with the vegetables attached to them is
happily symmetrical. So, load goat cheese quesadillas with
both roasted beets and sautéed beet greens. Thinly sliced
radishes make great sandwiches — with butter and sea salt,
or smoked salmon and crème fraîche — on slabs of thick,
rustic bread. Turn the radish tops, which have a peppery
tang to them reminiscent of arugula, into a vibrant salsa
verde. Drizzle over toast or stir into crème fraîche (or
yogurt or cream cheese) to brighten both the flavor and the
leafy tops of fennel have an anise-y flavor, not unlike the
dill they resemble, and are terrific in salads and with
salmon and cucumber. Celeriac leaves look and taste like a
more hardcore version of celery and thus work well in potato
salads and soups.
not familiar with the greens, taste them and consider what
dishes you might like. You could also do worse than strike
up a conversation with the farmer at the produce stand —
or whomever is digging through those piles of carrot tops
and radish greens.
CARROTS WITH CARROT-TOP PESTO
1 hour. Serves 2 to 4
bunches small carrots (about 12)
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
oven to 400 degrees. Trim the greens from the carrots,
leaving a half-inch or so bit of stem on the top of each.
Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet, coat with olive
oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until
the carrots are tender and golden, 30 to 40 minutes, tossing
every 10 minutes or so for even coloring.
PESTO AND ASSEMBLY
packed chopped carrot tops
cup packed parsley leaves
cup grated Parmesan cheese
cup toasted walnuts
zest of a lemon
tablespoons lemon juice
teaspoon kosher salt
food processor, combine the carrot tops, parsley, cheese,
walnuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and sugar,
pulsing until coarsely ground. This makes about 1 cup pesto.
Serve with the roasted carrots.
From Amy Scattergood. Pesto adapted from a recipe by Mads
GREEN, ROASTED BEETS AND GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLAS
hour, 15 minutes, plus cooling time. Serves 4
bunches small beets with their greens attached (about 12)
virgin olive oil
teaspoon kosher salt
large sprig rosemary
cloves garlic, chopped
(6-inch) corn tortillas
ounces soft goat cheese, or to taste
sauce, for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the greens from the beets,
coarsely chop the greens and reserve.
Place the beets on a double layer of foil and drizzle over 3
tablespoons oil. Sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon salt and add the
rosemary. Seal the foil around the beets, making a pouch,
place on a baking sheet and bake until the beets are tender,
about an hour (a knife should pierce the beets easily). Set
aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and thinly
a skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot, add 2
tablespoons oil. Stir in the garlic, cooking for a minute or
so until it begins to color, then add the chopped greens.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the greens are wilted and
the stems are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and
Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat
until hot and coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Place a
couple tortillas in the pan and top with goat cheese, beet
greens and sliced beets. Top with tortillas, flattening each
to spread the filling evenly.
Cook the quesadillas until the cheese is melted and the
tortillas are golden, carefully flipping to cook the filling
and tortillas evenly. Repeat with the remaining tortillas
and filling. Halve the quesadillas and serve while warm,
with hot sauce on the side.
From Amy Scattergood.
SALMON AND RADISH- GREEN SALSA VERDE TOASTS
minutes. Serves 4
radish greens, from approximately 2 bunches, chopped
cup extra virgin olive oil
and juice from 1 lemon
and juice from 1 orange
food processor or blender, combine the radish greens,
cilantro, oil, garlic, a pinch of salt (or to taste), lemon
zest and juice, and orange zest and juice. Blend until
smooth. This makes about 1 1/2 cups salsa verde.
ounces crème fraîche
slices whole wheat or country white bread, toasted
ounces smoked salmon, more if desired
thinly sliced radishes
the crème fraîche among the toasted bread slices,
spreading it evenly over each piece. Top with the salmon,
followed by the radish slices. Drizzle or spoon over the
salsa verde and serve immediately.
From Amy Scattergood.