My sister-in-law was over yesterday morning, and she commented on the dried orange zest that I was adding to a recipe, wanting to know where I had purchased it. Now, it is certainly possible to buy dried orange peel at many bulk food stores, and I have done so myself, but this was zest that I had dried myself, something that shocked her a little. She had always just tossed her orange peels, and the process of zesting and drying that much peel seemed onerous to her, which is fair. Our conversation got me thinking, however, about the leavings of things that I used to throw away but now use regularly in my cooking, and I thought that I might list them here, first, to share something of my own kitchen practices, and second, to solicit ideas about any other leavings that I could be using in my cooking.
1. I zest and dry the peels of any citrus that I will not be using immediately: orange, lemon, lime, even grapefruit when I have it in the house, which is infrequently. I add these things to desserts and to curries and to stirfries, and I use them as toppings for things like puddings and custards and icecream, and I sometimes add them to some jams and preserves.
2. I strip and dry the tops of carrots, which can be added to soups and stews to provide carrot flavour without actually using carrots. They are also great in making soup stock. You can even steam them with butter and lemon and eat them as a green vegetable, though my family does not exactly love this.
3. I dry and grind stale bread into bread crumbs for breading meat and using as toppings on casseroles and whatnot.
4. I save the leavings of certain vegetables for making soup stock: carrot and onion and celery, certainly, but also sweet peppers, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, anything that is not too starchy.
What other leavings could I be using?