Well Happy Valentine’s Day! I think I have a new salad and dressing pairing that will tug at your heartstrings… in a super healthy way. Not only is it delicious, it allows you to be planet-conscious while being health-conscious.
One sure way to tug at my heartstrings is to give me new ideas about eliminating food waste (I know, hopeless romantic). This is nothing new coming from me, right? But I try not to harp on it too often because I realize everybody can only do what they can do. Every effort is valiant. However, when I get the inspiration to turn my compost into delicious recycled food, I gotta share.
I mentioned on the blog a couple of weeks ago how impressed I was with Delicious Living Magazine’s January issue, the headline of which read “Waste Not!” There are several recipes in the print version and more online that make incredible dishes out of what is virtually food waste. If you recall, near the end of my post I linked to the Celery Leaf Walnut Pesto from the “Root to Leaf” article.
But the recipe that intrigued me the most was Apple Core Syrup, made by taking peels and cores of apples and cooking them down into a ready-to-use syrup for desserts, marinades, dressings and more. All you needed was your imagination. The recipe is also super simple and only uses three other ingredients: water, honey and cinnamon sticks. The only catch for me? It takes six cups of apple cores and peels. Since I almost never peel my apples, it was going to take quite a while to save up cores in my freezer, but I just couldn’t let the idea go.
After two weeks, I only had about a cup of cores. Then I got the inspiration to add other sweet and spicy food peelings to replace some of the apple cores and the cinnamon in the original recipe: beet peels and gingerroot peels were my selections. Once I had accumulated a packed cup each, I decided I had enough food waste to start the experiment.
Following Delicious Living’s recipe for guidance, I cooked down my apple cores and peels and finished it off with the honey. Then I worked my beautiful bright red sauce into a dressing for a knock-out citrus salad that I hope will encourage you to “waste not.”
- Three cups of peels and apple cores (For this recipe I used one cup scrubbed red beet peels, one cup washed gingerroot peels and one cup red apple cores. I considered citrus peels, so there's another idea. The syrup will keep in the frig for a couple of weeks.)
- Two and a half cups water
- Two tablespoons raw honey
- One-quarter teaspoon each whole black peppercorns and whole coriander seeds
- One half-teaspoon coarse sea salt
- One-quarter teaspoon garlic powder (Use a high-quality garlic powder—mine is fresh from Daydream Farms, but try Penzeys for a pure garlic powder with no added salt.)
- One tablespoon Dijon mustard
- One-quarter cup olive oil
- One half-pound asparagus spears, washed
- Two to three tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse sea salt
- Two cups baby arugula leaves
- Two cups baby spinach leaves
- Two ruby grapefruits, peel and pith removed
- Two navel oranges, peel and pith removed
- One large avocado
- One-half cup crumbled blue cheese or Stilton cheese
- One cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
- Begin the dressing by making your peel syrup. Note that if the peel syrup isn’t that appealing to you, you could possibly substitute a bit of citrus juice and honey or maple, but it will not taste the same and you will lose the vibrant ruby color. To make the syrup, combine the peels and water in a medium pot. Bring to boiling and simmer on low for about an hour. Stir occasionally. When the liquid starts to reduce, strain out the peels and return to the stove. Add the honey and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced by half and has begun to thicken a bit, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
- In a dry cast-iron skillet, toast the peppercorns and the coriander until they become fragrant. Remove from heat and cool. Crush with the sea salt with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together two to three tablespoons of the peel syrup (reserving the rest for another recipe), the Dijon, the crushed spices and the garlic powder. Whisking steadily, add the olive oil until a stable emulsion occurs. Set aside.
- Remove the tough stem at the bottom of each asparagus spear. Toss the spears in two to three tablespoons olive oil and coarse sea salt to taste. Roast in a 450 degrees oven for twenty minutes or on a medium-hot grill for about 15 minutes, until you see a nice char forming on all sides. Turn two or three times for even charring. Set aside.
- Slice the peeled grapefruits and oranges horizontally in circles (not sections). Remove as much of white bitter pith as you can before you slice. Remove seeds, if necessary.
- Peel and dice or slice the avocado. (You might want to sprinkle with a little lemon or lime juice to keep it fresh and green. How you serve it is up to you—diced or sliced both work well here.)
- To assemble the salad, create a bed of arugula and spinach leaves on each of four plates.
- Place an even number of grapefruit rounds followed by orange rounds on each bed of greens.
- Top with roasted asparagus spears—you should get three or four for each plate—add avocado.
- Crumble on the cheese and sprinkle with the pecans. Drizzle about two or three tablespoons of dressing across each salad. Serve the dressing along side for those who wish more.
Note that the prep time includes the hour and 15 minutes needed to prepare the syrup, plus cooling time. The cook time refers to roasting or grilling the asparagus. I would count on two hours, start to finish, realizing that the syrup could be made up to a week or so in advance and the asparagus could be made ahead by half a day.
So, think twice before you toss your peelings, cores and stems into that compost. Looking for another idea? Try Delicious Living’s recipe for Kale Stems with Caramelized Onions and Bacon. Yep, those tough kale stems you’ve been tossing can actually be your next favorite side dish.
And there’s still more. Check out the Delicious Living guide to using all kinds of food “waste” in your kitchen. Your budget and your planet and your diners will thank you!