Save our skins – deliciously and easily
Peeling is not fun, but I acknowledge that sometimes people don’t like the taste or texture of skins. However, there are some compromises you can make that will ensure your tastebuds are happy, while cutting down on prep time and saving the most nutrient-dense part of your food from the scraps bin. Since Autumn is approaching, I thought I’d share my favourite tasty ways to eat potato and apple skins, either as part of your existing recipes or as a stand alone recipe. There’s also a summary of the various ways to use bits of vegetables that often get thrown out unnecessarily out of habit. Unless you’re allergic, I hope these help you save some time, make your meals a bit more exciting, and boost your vitamin & fibre intake.
Not everyone hates skins, but there are times when you might want to accommodate the tastes of your guests or are making a recipe that requires the skin be removed. In that case, my go-to option is now to make delicious crispy baked peels/chips: Peel the potatoes thickly and keep the peels roughly uniform in size. Then drizzle oil over just to coat the skins, sprinkle with salt and pepper and whatever herbs you like (or a very light sprinkling of finely shaved parmesan) and lay out on a single layer on a baking tray. Chuck in while other stuff is baking in your oven, these skins can go in any temperature between 180-200C (355-400F). Bake until golden and fragrant. You can do this with the peels of baked potatoes as well (eg., when you’re making gnocchi), but you will want to make the “chips” bigger and it will be a little more annoying.
These are surprisingly delicious and crispy, not leathery provided you use enough oil to coat all the peel lightly. I couldn’t help trying it when at a friend’s house – she was making us dinner and the thought of all those skins going to waste was too much to bear! They taste great cold still, although I’ve never had to keep them overnight (there usually aren’t enough for that).
Many recipes where apples are cooked tell you to use peeled apples, but this is almost never necessary because the skins soften during cooking. If you’re drying the apples in some way (like baking them on a thin layer on pastry) and you dislike their leatheriness, fair call. However if the apples are stewed or are being made for applesauce, then the skins are barely noticeable and won’t dramatically affect the taste or texture of your baking.
Having three apple trees, we make a lot of applesauce. The easiest way to make applesauce is to chop your unpeeled cored apple into bite size chunks, bung in a covered casserole dish, add about 1 Tbs water per cup of apple, and bake covered with whatever you have in the oven until the apples are soft and mushy (the time it takes will therefore depend on what temp you’ve got your oven at for the other things, but keep it between 150-220C or 300-430F). Puree while hot to get a silky smooth sauce. You can add spices and sweeteners in with the raw apple, but if using raw honey, mix through once the pureed sauce is warm to preserve the nutrients in the honey.
Other skins & greens
You can save the peels of carrots or parsnips by freezing and using them in home-made bouillon, which is the quickest, easiest, and most space-saving stock you’ll ever come across. There are some pretty cool ways to use the rinds of watermelon too!
There are also an increasing number of recipes using the greens of carrots. I sometimes also use radish greens when the radishes are fresh, in soups (esp potato-based ones), or in amongst my Asian greens (the prickly texture isn’t to everyone’s taste though I’ll admit, but this disappears in soups). There are some cool suggestions on White on Rice too. Beetroot greens are a great substitute for spinach or silverbeet, and add a nice earthy kick without being bitter. When young, celery leaves also add a refreshing note to many dishes in place of parsley. I recoil in horror when I see instructions telling you to throw away the green part of spring onions (/scallions/green onions/shallots in Australia). Not everyone actually throws them away of course, but if you do, consider using them just like you would the white parts.The green parts of leeks are also totally usable when fresh, as are the fronds of fennel – here’s a delicious recipe I made using both! You can also freeze the greens on top of red onions when you buy them in a bunch and use in the aforementioned home made bouillon, or chop finely and add to stir fries or use in place of spring onion or chives – again, this applies to fresh onion greens. Another reason I like getting my veges from the farmer’s market – they often leave these bits intact and the produce is fresh enough that you can utilise more of the plant’s goodness! My local market sometimes sells broccoli with many of the leaves intact, which you can chop finely to add to stir fries or use instead of kale (they are from the same family after all). The leaf stalks can be a bit tough though so sometimes I remove the stalks, and I do the same with cauliflower leaves too when they are fresh enough. The leaves are even more nutrient-dense than the broccoli itself!
The central stem of broccoli and cauliflower is also edible, just peel the outer tough layers of skin off around the base of the stalk and chop into bite sized pieces for stir fries or soups. Make sure you store your caulis or broccoli in a way that they don’t dry out in the fridge though, as the leaves will wilt otherwise.
What are your favourite ways to eat the whole fruit or vegetable?