6 Whole-food Cooking Ideas You Never Thought to Try

Try these recipes to add some excitement to your kitchen without letting a single part of your harvest go to waste.

by Dani Yokhna
Try making broccoli popcorn for a fun way to cook this brassica favorite. Photo courtesy Design Pics/Michael Interisano/Valueline/Thinkstock
Courtesy Design Pics/Michael Interisano/ Valueline/Thinkstock
Try making broccoli popcorn for a fun way to cook this brassica favorite.

You work hard in the garden to provide delicious produce for your family, so it’s important not to let any of it go to waste. While you can continue to sauce your tomatoes and add your zucchini bumper crop to breads and casseroles, you can also try some new preparation methods to use parts of your vegetables that might have otherwise ended up in the compost pile. Who knows, you might just discover a new favorite treat in the process!

Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, brothers, chefs and authors of Volt Ink (Olive Press, 2011), are proponents of local eating and encourage home cooks to get creative when using up hard-earned produce. They offer these tips to add some flair to your food and eat what’s in season:

1. Vegetable Paper
Choose a tasty vegetable. Dice it finely and place in a blender with vinegar and oil. Spread a thin layer of the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper, and place in a food dehydrator for about 3 hours. The result is a thin paper and a fun, delicious way to get in your daily servings of vegetables. Red peppers work well for this recipe, but so do other favorite vegetables, like onions and cauliflower.

2. Broccoli Popcorn
Cut broccoli into florets and cook in boiling water on the stovetop. Once tender, place in a food dehydrator for several hours. (Consult your dehydrator manual for cooking times.) Drop the dehydrated broccoli into hot water, and remove once it begins to pop.

If you don’t have a food dehydrator, don’t worry—you can still try this recipe. Set your oven to its lowest setting (about 130 to 150 degrees F). Place cooked broccoli on a baking sheet, and place it in the oven. Dry with the door open for air circulation for 3 to 4 hours or until fully dehydrated.

3. Char
Never fret over burnt food again. According to the Voltaggio brothers, charring is the new caramelizing. If a vegetable-roasting mission has gone awry, continue to cook the vegetables until completely black. Then grind the burnt vegetables into ash. Mix the ash with oil and salt for a flavorful dressing, or mix it into spice rubs and marinades for meats.

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Avoid using bitter vegetables, like turnips, when making char, as the burnt flavor will already hit that part of your palate. Instead opt for sweeter vegetables as well as onions and citrus fruits. If you aren’t sure where to start, Michael Voltaggio recommends trying an orange-leek char, using orange peels and the green part of the leek.

4. Chimichurri
Put a local spin on a simple vinaigrette by blending it with typically wasted greens, like the tops of carrots, turnips, radishes and beets. In a food processor, purée chopped greens, oil, vinegar, salt, garlic and any other spices you desire. Use the resulting sauce to add a flavorful twist to salads and meats. (And impress those at the dinner table with its fancy name.)

5. Glazed Vegetables
Cut up your favorite vegetables, like carrots, and place them in a shallow pan. Fill the pan with water until the vegetables are just covered. Add a small amount of salt and sugar, and cook on medium heat until the water is gone. (The amount of time will depend on the size of your vegetables and how much water you add.) Transfer vegetables to a baking pan and place in a 500-degree-F oven for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly charred.

6. Vacuum-packed Veggies
If you have too many vegetables now and want to save some for later, a vacuum sealer could be your new best friend. To extend the life of your veggies, vacuum-pack them and then cook the pack in water until soft. Vacuum-packed vegetables will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, so at your leisure, you can try out new recipes you’ve been eyeing.

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