If you’re not going to get to something by the time it will be past its prime, cut it into chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, roast and freeze it in a Ziploc freezer bag. Then you can use it in a variety of ways: puree it with stock for a filling creamy soup; chop and mix with cheese for calzone or burrito filling; use in a frittata (just add eggs); toss with pasta and fresh Parmesan for a hearty Primavera-style dish; add to mac and cheese or spaghetti sauce…lots of options, no need to throw it out!
And you can also make use of the trimmings, greens and odds and ends. From Julia Moskin’s terrific New York Times article, “That’s Not Trash, It’s Dinner” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/dining/thats-not-trash-thats-dinner.html):
At Your Disposal
Before you throw away your vegetable trimmings, consider some alternative uses:
CARROT, CELERY AND FENNEL LEAVES Mix small amounts, finely chopped, with parsley as a garnish or in salsa verde: all are in the Umbelliferae family of plants. Taste for bitterness when deciding how much to use.
CHARD OR COLLARD RIBS Simmer the thick stalks in white wine and water with a scrap of lemon peel until tender, then drain and dress with olive oil and coarse salt. Or bake them with cream, stock or both, under a blanket of cheese and buttery crumbs, for a gratin.
CITRUS PEEL Organic thin-skinned peels of tangerines or satsumas can be oven-dried at 200 degrees, then stored to season stews or tomato sauces.
CORN COBS Once the kernels are cut off, simmer the stripped cobs with onions and carrots for a simple stock. Or add them to the broth for corn or clam chowder. (Chefchick’s note: toss them in a freezer bag to save them until you feel like having chowder this fall.)
MELON RINDS Cut off the hard outer peels and use crunchy rinds in place of cucumber in salads and cold soups.
PEACH LEAVES Steep in red wine, sugar and Cognac to make a summery peach-bomb aperitif. (According to David Lebovitz’s recipe, the French serve it on ice.)
POTATO PEELS Deep-fry large pieces of peel in 350-degree oil and sprinkle with salt and paprika. This works best with starchy potatoes like russets.
YOUNG ONION TOPS Wash well, coarsely chop and cook briefly in creamy soups or stews, or mix into hot mashed potatoes.
TOMATO LEAVES AND STEMS Steep for 10 minutes in hot soup or tomato sauces to add a pungent garden-scented depth of tomato flavor. Discard leaves after steeping.
TOMATO SCRAPS Place in a sieve set over a bowl, salt well and collect the pale red juices for use in gazpacho, Bloody Marys or risotto.
TURNIP, CAULIFLOWER OR RADISH LEAVES Braise in the same way as (or along with) collards, chards, mustard greens or kale.
WATERMELON SEEDS Roast and salt like pumpkin seeds.