Raccoons and composters could become mighty grumpy, depending on how much buzz is generated about “ Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable ” (Ten Speed Press, 2013; $22, 65 recipes). San Francisco Chronicle food writer Tara Duggan has one-upped other kitchen-scraps cookbooks with ideas that will intrigue even the most wasteful among us.
The timing seems right to learn that carrot-top greens sub nicely for the parsley in tabbouleh. The tough, dark-green parts of leeks work well in stir-fries and in pot sticker filling. Fennel stalks — produce weight you pay for and seldom employ — offer a twofer: an infused simple syrup that takes less than 10 minutes to make and thin, chewy slices of candied fennel that could be the antidote to the ho-hum dried cranberries strewn in salads. Apple peels, along with a few cloves, a stick of cinnamon and a week’s time, may turn you into a craft bourboneer.
Duggan and her family tend their organic farm on the weekends, so I suspect that her testing and recipes were developed over time and not in a crush of mad-science experiments. Two thumbs up for the scrap storage information included at the end of most recipes. However, it left me wishing that the data had been compiled in a chart at the back of the book for future at-a-glance reference.
The author explains her reasons for organizing the recipes according to botanical parts — stems, leaves, etc. — rather than, say, grouping all that can be done with unshucked ears of corn. That’s why you’ll find greens recipes in the Roots chapter. No matter; the book is of modest size and compelling enough to navigate stress-free.
Neither will you have to worry about guilt tripping. The usual statistics about what’s at stake, wastewise, are in the introduction, yet the author’s take remains realistic. “Preventing herbs from turning to sludge in your refrigerator drawer will not end world hunger,” she writes, “but it can save you a dollar or two each time — adding up to thousands of dollars per year for a family of four — and it will contribute overall to reducing food waste.”