One of the biggest challenges with cooking at home is not wasting ingredients. For tricks on using food more efficiently, the Foundation for New York’s Strongest has enlisted chef Ronna Welsh, founder of Purple Kale Kitchenworks in Sunset Park and author of “The Nimble Cook,” for a workshop on waste-free cooking.
Inspired by a vision for a more sustainable city, the Foundation for New York’s Strongest is the official nonprofit organization of the New York City Department of Sanitation, which sees how much food is landing in our garbage cans every day instead of on the dinner table.
Here, Welsh shares a few tips for cooking more purposefully.
What inspired you to become a zero-waste cook?
I trained as a cook during the nascent greenmarket movement two decades ago, which instilled in me the importance of exploring the full potential of each ingredient. When I stepped away from large-scale restaurant production to teach, I could take time to delve into what you could do with a small pile of potato peels, the leaves in a single bunch of celery or a meaty apple core.
Why is using ingredients to their full potential so important?
No one likes wasting food, especially when you’re throwing away more than scraps and peels. Often, we end up tossing ingredients we buy with the best intentions. Maybe you needed parsley for a recipe, but then the rest of the bunch just wilts unused in your fridge. The first step is to start thinking about those ingredients as delicious things in their own right rather than just as parts of a recipe.
Are there any surprising benefits to cooking with whole ingredients?
Definitely! There are nutrients in peels and stems that we would normally discard, and even cooking water. The other major benefit is the money that you save from using every part of every ingredient instead of throwing it out.
Do you have any seasonal tips for fall?
Apples are plentiful right now and you can literally use them down to the core. I buy them in bulk from the orchard or on sale at the grocery store. I peel the skin in long even strips to dry in my oven on low heat for a snack, and I use the cores to flavor syrups for fall cocktails.
What is the format of the upcoming workshop?
The workshop will be an interactive discussion about how to turn the traditional process of making a meal on its head, putting ingredients before recipes and embracing improvisation over strict meal plans. There will be plenty of ideas to take away and samples to eat.
Why did you want to partner with the Foundation for New York’s Strongest?
The way I see it, we’re the perfect balance: They have a handle on processing food waste and I have a handle on preventing it. The more successful I am, the more successful they can be.
The Nimble Cook Basics: Waste-Free Cooking for Everyone workshop is Wednesday, 6-8 p.m., at Purple Kale Kitchenworks | 250 44th St., Sunset Park | tickets $20 at nycstrongest.org