Recently, at my local supermarket, I came across a seasonal cauliflower which had lots of stems. Some stems were so long that they encased or rather caged the entire head till the top. They reminded me of the new crop of Gobhi or cauliflower that floods the markets around the start of fall or autumn in North India. This new crop has tender leggy green stems around the florets. We call these stems, Danthal in Hindi and they are used to make a delicious stir fry or sabzi.
The concept of finding more uses to everyday produce is nothing new. I grew up eating Danthal ki sabzi or cauliflower stem sabzi almost every season. Sometimes my mom would make a regular gobhi aloo or gobhi matar sabzi and reserve these stems for a danthal ki sabzi to be made later in the week. Something I find myself doing quite often now. This no-waste approach ensures that one gets the most bang out of their buck and the most nutrition from their produce.
Not just the stems of cauliflower, the greens sprouting from the stems also make it to the Danthal ki sabzi. All you need to do is, remove the tough peel of the stems by snapping them. The fibrous difficult to cook (and chew) part comes off easily this way, leaving you with ready to use stems. A quick stir fry and steam with cumin and basic spices brings together this delicious no-waste Danthal ki sabzi that you can enjoy with the side of some chapatis or parathas.
If you thought no-waste cooking was all about using unusual parts of a vegetable, that’s just the start. We have many other techniques and ideas for you to apply in your kitchen.
No Waste Cooking: Go beyond the usual hacks
I use coffee grounds as a fertilizer for my plants and collect citrus peels in the freezer to make a batch of bio-enzyme cleaner, every now and then. Using vegetable peels in stocks is a common suggestion when speaking of no-waste or zero-waste cooking but in my Indian kitchen, I hardly find use for stocks. Don’t get me wrong, vegetable stocks are great and full of flavour and your can compost the strained peels after. But its something I don’t find myself doing often. I also have limited space in my apartment and cannot take up composting projects.
Luckily, less than ideal produce, vegetable and fruit peels still have many other uses. Here are some suggestions, recipe ideas and hacks to embrace a no-waste approach in your kitchens. Let’s start with the obvious ones.
Make a Sabzi
Like the danthal or cauliflower stem sabzi, there are some other unusual things you could use to make a sabzi or a vegetable side dish that is usually sautéed and steamed. Summertime brings some beautiful melons to the produce aisles and if you live in a desert like climate like here in the UAE, you get local watermelons for most part of the year. The rind or white part of a watermelon, just under the green peel can be used to make a delicious juicy sabzi.
This watermelon rind sabzi tastes similar to vegetables from the gourd family but it does not lose its bite. This summer I made watermelon chhilka or rind sabzi with fennel, cumin and spices and devoured it with rotis.
Another unusual sabzi that I ate while growing up was made of boiled and sautéed green banana and its peels, and another one was made using peels of sweet peas or matar.
If you don’t want to try something new, trying chopping up these edible parts of the vegetable and add them to your dals, pav bhaji, soups, pasta sauces and the like. Beetroot greens go great in dals, if you are not a fan of dal palak like me. If beetroot greens are hard to find, try using other greens like amaranth ka saag, collard greens etc.
Try Pickling and Preserving
Pickling and preserving are timeless ways to extend the shelf life of most produce. Got over ripe fruits and berries lying around? Make a compote or jam. Bought too many crisp cucumbers at the farmers market? Make a quick refrigerator pickle or perhaps a lacto-fermented one.
Another thing I did with the abundant watermelon during the summer, is making a quick pickle with fennel and spices using the same watermelon rind. I adapted a watermelon rind pickle recipe by Alton Brown and within a few days, I was upgrading my grilled cheese and bombay sandwiches with these delicious pickles!
A common lacto-fermented pickle made during the winter and spring season, is the Gobhi-Gajar-Mooli-Shalgam ka Achaar. As the name suggests, this pickle uses cauliflower, seasonal red carrots, radish and winter turnips. Recipes vary from family to family and my uncle, known for his delicious version, also uses peels of sweet peas sometimes.
In fact, on the topic of cauliflower and its stems, Kanika suggested the danthal or stems would be great in a homemade kimchi too.
Make a Chutney, Dip or Pesto
A recent reel by Chef Shilarna Vaze or ChefChinuVaze, featured an interesting use for peels of ridge gourd. She combined the cooked peels of the gourd with jalapeno, cashews, more herbs and coconut milk to make a creamy dip. You can see her entertaining reel where she speaks entirely in Marathi here.
Coriander stems are often sadly discarded, when they are absolute flavor bombs. We add them to our green chutney and also sprinkle them over our curries as a garnish.
While it might not be right to classify pestos in the same category as chutneys, I think the similarity in technique warrants inclusion here. You can make pesto using carrot tops, fennel fronds and even parsley. There’s even a tried and tested Spinach Peanut pesto on our blog.
Use Fruit in New Ways
Like I mentioned above, using over ripe fruit to make compotes and jams at home is no biggie. But what about under-ripe fruit? Of course raw or green mangoes are abundantly used in chutneys and sabzis to lend sourness. But what about ripe mangoes that aren’t really sweet?
A no-waste hack for using less sweet ripe mangoes is to use them in this Ripe Mango curry. All you need to do is add a few pinches of jaggery to sweeten the curry slightly. Another way to use Pineapple is to make this delicious side of Pineapple Pachadi.
What about green mangoes that turn out to be sweet or ripe? Use those to make sweet Mango Chutneys by combining with other fruits. Last spring, my mom-in-law taught me a delicious coconut dal with raw mango and drumsticks.
I’ve saved the best for last ~ my maternal grandma used to make a delicious Apple Sabzi that I still sometimes make with granny- smith apples, no pun intended! The apple sabzi is spicy, tart and has just a touch of sweetness.