Chefs are masters at cutting waste. Here, they reveal three genius things to do with herb stems that would normally go in the trash.
Chefs are masters at finding ways to cut waste—they’re naturals at the #LoveUglyFood movement. “We actually don’t even use this word ‘scrap’ in the kitchen,” says chef Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia. “We call it ‘trim.’ We use three tiers to evaluate all our trim to make sure we’re putting it to best use: First, we try to find a way to use it in a menu special for the night. Second, we’ll use extra trim in the family meal we make for staff (a staff meal favorite is one we call ‘scrap-aliatelle’—a pasta we make with the leftover fresh dough). The last and least desired option for any trim is the trash can.” Here, three chefs sound off on how they get creative with herb stems.
Add flavor to vinegar. “After we use the herbs in cooking, we take the stems and make flavored vinegars. We simply bring white vinegar up to a simmer, pour it over the stems let it sit overnight at room temperature. Tarragon and rosemary both work very well; you can probably use any herb as long as you keep the proportion of stems to vinegar high and use a neutral vinegar.” —Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Bring crunch to salad. “If you’re making a pesto or a sauce based on cilantro or parsley leaves, save the stems and dress them as you would a leaf or a green. They make great, crunchy, flavorful additions to salad.” —Jim Christiansen, Heyday, Minneapolis
Infuse cooking oil. “Fill a pot with inexpensive vegetable oil and any herbs you like—thyme, oregano, rosemary, dill, cilantro, Italian parsley, chervil, chive scraps. Allow it to steep overnight. The next day, strain the herbs out and use the infused oil for grilled bread, vinaigrettes, sautés, anything!” —Briar Handly, Handle, Park City, Utah