Carrot Top Nasturtium Salsa Verde

Food waste: the idea is as old as your mother telling you to clean your plate because people are starving in _________, but now the research is in.  Americans are wasting nearly half of the food produced and imported here, and just half of that could feed the globe’s 1 billion who are starving, according to Tristam Stuart in his new book, Waste:Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.  You can be sure that your great-grandmother didn’t waste a bite of food, but along with the industrialization of the food supply and our estrangement from food production has come this banal outrage.  Stuart calculates: “If trees were planted on all the land currently being used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, they could offset between 50 to 100 percent of the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

The problem needs to be addressed in big and small ways.  A global movement is growing, and one front is in the kitchen.  Berkeleyan Dana Gunders’ new book, Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, tackles the issue and shares a larder of useful tips on how to manage your own food waste stream while imparting a deep wisdom about meal planning and kitchen economy that is vital but seldom mentioned in food books. More culinarily challenging is Eugenia Bones’ The Kitchen Ecosystem, in which Eugenia shares her system of Italian-inspired seasonal cooking, using some of an ingredient fresh, while preserving some, using the preserves, and using the scraps from this to make delightful granitas, fruit syrups, cocktail ingredients and the like.

Certain dishes lend themselves to using scraps, stems, and tidbits, like soup, smoothies, salads and a staple in my kitchen, pesto/salsa verde.  I like to include some parts of veggies often composted, like leek greens, the tops of green onions or garlic, parsley and cilantro stems, and “weeds” like dandelion and nasturtium.  Drizzle it on eggs, steak, beans, avocado toast or soup, or dilute with lemon juice or vinegar and enjoy on salad.  Fermenting it makes it keep much longer and increases the health benefits.  If you eat enough, it counts as an extra vegetable serving!

Carrot Top Nasturtium Salsa Verde
I’ve tried a number of recipes using carrot tops and this one, based on Eugenia Bone’s Carrot Top Pesto in The Kitchen Ecosystem, is by far the best.  Remove the tough stems and blanch them to mellow the taste.  The same goes for the ubiquitous nasturtium greens which can be too potent when larger than a silver dollar.  Try this with any potent greens, mixing with mild parsley or fresh spinach to mellow.  Using the preserved lemon, anchovies or capers inoculates the sauce with probiotic bacteria which you can use to preserve it by leaving it at room temperature to ferment before storage.  They add a welcome element of umami flavor while they make your gut bacteria happy.

Tops from 1 bunch carrots
1/2 cup nasturtium greens
Handful of nasturtium flowers
1/2 cup parsley or spinach
1 stalk green garlic or 3 cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 preserved lemon, or 1/2 tsp anchovies, or 1 tsp capers
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Trim the tough stems from the carrot tops (which you can use in stock), and blanch the leaves and nasturtium greens in boiling water for about 1 minute.  Drain and press out water.  Combine these with the parsley, garlic, preserved lemon and Aleppo pepper in a food processor or blender and puree into a rough paste.  Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse again.  Season to taste.  Use right away or cover and let sit overnight to 24 hours to ferment slightly and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Original post from the archives, here.

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