Making the Most with the Least

Stem to Tip Vegetable Salad

There are so many times that I can remember when I have wasted perfectly good vegetables in the past.  No, I’m not talking about spoilage.  We’ve all made that honest mistake.  But how often have you discarded stems and leaves because you just wanted the main vegetable?  How often have you considered what your wasting by not checking into what can be made with the discarded bits?

{Recipe after the jump.}

I am certainly guilty.  But in tough times, cooks across the country have begun exploring ways to make the most of everything, from meat to vegetables.  They’ve started to rethink the way they make use of food, and this week we’ll be doing the same with a market salad that makes use of ingredients that you might have never thought that you’d use but will be glad you did once you do.

I have a handful of those ingredients in my refrigerator: sweet potato leaves, diakon radish stems, carrot fronds.  Some of these are completely new and unusual.  Others, like the carrot fronds, are typical but very much underutilized.  The goal of this recipe is to showcase a few ideas and techniques to make the most of what you can find at the market and in your shares.  The recipe is a little complex, I know.  But even if you don’t make it, I hope that you’ll think a little more about stem to tip cooking.  I know that I did while creating this recipe, and I’m hopeful this experiment will spark my inspiration more often before I throw ingredients away.

First, let’s explore some of these vegetables.  Sweet potato leaves aren’t very common in this country, but in other cultures around the world, they do have a place at the dinner table.  The flavor is mild but very unusual.  The best descriptor that I can think of is unripe tropical fruit, leaning more toward mild green banana flavor when eaten raw.  The texture isn’t unpleasant raw, but I found it to have a bit of a chalky aftertaste.  Cooking the potato leaves changes them entirely.  They cook very quickly, much like spinach.  The flavor is quite mild as well, and if you had enough of them, they could fairly easily be substituted for spinach in a lot of recipes, lending a little more robust flavor than spinach might.

Carrot fronds are the mass of greens attached to the vegetable that we all know and love.  They are light and delicate like an herb.  The flavor, surprisingly, is very much that of a raw carrot, only not as sweet.  As you chew, the leaves develop a mild bitter flavor.  Eaten alone, the greens would be too strong.  However, when mixed with other greens or vegetables, they can add a nice flavor as a raw ingredient.  I have yet to cook them, so I cannot say how they would work as a flavoring herb.  I would like to try chopping them as you would parsley and adding them to some sauteed carrots soon though.

Daikon radish leaves are another delicate green.  They have a very, very mild radish flavor and are not unpleasant as a salad green.  The tender tips of the stems can be eaten, but the lower part of the stem, though tender, is quite fibrous, more so than celery, making it difficult to bite into.  Both the greens and the tender stems can be cooked.  They are a nice mild green that can be added to soups or lightly sauteed in olive oil or butter.

This salad is a mixture of temperatures, flavors, and textures.  It makes use of both the vegetable and green when available.  It involves a few individual preparations (roasted turnips, sauteed carrots, pickled pears and chiles, cold picked greens, and a warm vinaigrette).  Not every component needs to go into this salad, but I believe that, when combined together, all of these ingredients create a very satisfying salad that even I, an omnivore, are quite happy to have without any meat or protein.  If you are craving a protein however, I would suggest keeping it light and simple.  There are a lot of flavors to compete with in this salad, so perhaps a simple fish like salmon or a crisp skinned chicken breast would work best.     — Adam Gregory

Making the Most with the Least

Servings: 4

Cooking time: around 1 hour – 1.5 hours

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch CSA Turnips, leaves removed
  • 1 bunch CSA Carrots, tops removed
  • 6 stems CSA Carrot Leaves. stems removed
  • 2 – 2 ½  CSA Pears
  • 1 small CSA Diakon Radish (or ½ larger Daikon Radish)
  • 8 stems CSA Daikon leaves, stems removed
  • ½ lb CSA Sweet Potato Leaves, stems removed
  • 2 CSA small Chiles (preferably red and not too spicy)
  • 2 cups torn Bread
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbs + 1 tbs + 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbs Butter
  • 2 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 16 CSA Mint Leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Pickle:

  • 2 cups Water
  • ¼ cup White Vinegar
  • ¼ cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbs Sugar
  • 1 tbs Honey
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 25 CSA Mint leaves

 

Directions:

1)   Wash all of your vegetables.  Take special care with the carrots from this week.  Since they were tiny carrots, we won’t be peeling them.  It would be too much trouble.  Instead, wash them thoroughly in a bowl of water.  Let any dirt settle to the bottom, then wash each carrot individually, rubbing with your fingers to remove any trapped dirt.2)   Start by making the pickle.  This should be done at least two hours in advance, but preferably the night before.  Combine 2 cups of water, ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (can be substituted with rice wine or more white vinegar), 1 tbs sugar, ½ tsp salt, and 1 tbs honey in a small pot.  Heat over medium low heat to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.3)   In the meantime, peel 2 ½ small CSA pears.  If you have larger pears, two will be more than enough.  Bartlett pears are fine, as are Asian pears (apple pears).  Cut the pears into a medium large dice.  Slice two small CSA chilies into thin rings.  Set aside in a medium or large bowl or container.4)   When the pickle has simmered for 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat, add the mint leaves, stir to ensure everything is dissolved, and pour over the pears and chiles.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to cool.  Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or, preferably, overnight.

5)   Peel your turnips, and cut each turnip in half.  Slice each half lengthwise into 2-4 pieces (depending on the size), and cut in half again across the middle of the slices, producing small wedges.  How you cut the turnip is up to you, but you’ll want slices that are roughly ½ – 1 inch in length.

6)   Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Heat 1 tbs olive in in a small saute pan.  Saute the turnips with salt and pepper to brown on both sides, around 5 minutes.  Place the oven proof pan in the oven and roast the turnips for around 20 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the vegetable.  Remove from the oven, place in a saute pan over medium heat, and add 1 tsp honey.  Toss to coat, and set aside.

7)   Place the carrots in a small pot of water with some salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Gently boil for around 5 minutes, drain, and cool under cold running water.  Slice each carrot in half length wise, and set aside.

8 )   Remove the leaves from the radish stems and carrot stems.  Discard the stems on both.  The tiny stems that hold the carrot leaves together can be kept.  They are similar in texture to any herb (parsley comes to mind) and are fine to eat.  Set the leaves aside in a bowl.

9)   Peel a diakon radish.  Thinly slice into circles.  Cut these as thinly as you can.  The thinner the slice, the less radish bite you’ll have in your salad.  There are a lot of flavors going on in your salad, so try not to overpower the flavors.  Add to the carrot and radish leaves.

10)   Remove the stem tip from the sweet potato leaves the slicing along either side of the leaf, removing the stem and in the process cutting the leaf in half.  This gets rid of the tough stem while also cutting the leaves down into an easier to eat size.

11)   Cut 16 mint leaves into ¼ inch wide strips.  Add to the carrot and radish leaves and the diakon.  Add the pickled pears and chiles, add 1 tbs olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and toss to combine.

12)   In a medium bowl, toss the torn bread with 2 tbs olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the croutons to a preheated 350 degree oven to toast while you finish the salad.  The torn croutons should be light brown and slightly crisp but chewy.  You do not want hard, toasted croutons for this salad.

13)   In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tsp butter slowly until browned.  When browning butter, do this over medium heat.  Never add butter to a hot saute pan or it will burn and blacken.  You want a light toasty brown butter for this dish.  Saute the carrots for 3 minutes in the butter with salt and pepper.  Add the turnips and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Set aside and reserve.

14)   Remove pan from heat and add 1 tbs butter.  Allow to brown.  Add around 2 tbs Dijon mustard.  Stir to combine.  Be careful as the hot mixture will spatter a little because of the water in the mustard.  Do not wear your good shirt for this step.  Add 2 tbs balsamic vinegar the pan.  Stir to combine.  Add ¼ cup water, and stir to combine into a vinaigrette.

15)   Place the pan over medium heat, add the sweet potato leaves, and quickly toss to combine.  The leaves will wilt slightly from the heat.  Remove from heat and add the carrots and turnips.

16)   To plate, add the sweet potato leaves to a plate or bowl.  Top with the carrots, turnips, and diakon/carrot/mint leaves.  Scatter the chiles, diakon, and pears over the top, and add the croutons last.  You have a lot of colors and textures on the plate, but I think it makes for a really beautiful salad to layer everything together, spread the vegetables out a bit, and have some fun with the colors and textures.  With so many things to work with, you can make a really beautiful salad as a treat for you and your loved ones.

Enjoy!!

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