Can you eat the dark green part of scallions?
• What about the dark green parts of leeks?
Ah, now here’s a catch. The dark green leaves on leeks are very tough. When incorporating leeks into a recipe they are almost always removed. However, they do have their uses. They are excellent for flavoring stocks. Substitute them for regular onion or add them in addition to onion for a broader flavor profile. I like cutting them into thin strips, blanching them briefly, and then using them to tie julienned bundles of vegetables which I then cook.
• How about the stems on herbs?
Yes and no. At one extreme is cilantro. Many Latin cooks would consider it a sacrilege to discard the stems. They are indispensable for adding crunch to your salsa or guacamole. They are also good for salads and soups. Basically, anything you put cilantro in would also benefit from the stems.
It’s also not a big deal to include some of the thinner parts of the stem from herbs whose stems are softer, such as parsley, dill or tarragon. Woodier stems however, such as from rosemary are best avoided.
• What about mushroom stems?
• Since we’re on mushrooms, can you eat the brown underside of portobellos?
• Can you eat the rind on brie cheese?
• What about the rind on Parmesan?
As a block of Parmesan ages you’ll notice a darker, hard rind forming near the edge. This is usually not eaten directly because of its toughness. However, Italian cooks take advantage of it by adding it to soups or stews as a flavoring agent. Allow it to semi-melt in your soup during cooking and remove it before serving.
• Can you eat celery leaves?
• Can you eat unpeeled carrots?
• Can you eat artichoke leaves?
• Can you eat the seeds of squash like pumpkin seeds?
Yes. The next time you make an acorn or butternut squash, save the seeds. Rinse them, dry them, swirl them with some oil, add salt and roast them. They taste very similar to pumpkin seeds.
• OK, what about that bag of chicken parts that comes inside the chicken?
The “giblets” are the liver, gizzard and heart of the chicken. The neck is usually included in the packet as well. The gizzard and heart can be used to flavor stocks and soups, or chopped and mixed into stuffings. The livers are usually cooked separately. Use them to make a chicken liver pate. The neck is ideal for making chicken stock.
• Should I pour out that liquid on the top of the yogurt when I open it?
• Can you eat the seeds of peppers?
Many people discard the seeds of hot peppers believing that they contain the pepper’s heat. Capsaicin, the substance that gives chiles their kick, is primarily found in the veins of the pepper. The seeds are tough however and are usually disposed of for textural reasons. Although, a Latin chef I know sprinkles poblano seeds on his steak dishes which gives them an interesting twist.
• OK, what about the orange stuff you sometimes find on and around lobster tails, and that green stuff in the body?
Yes and yes. The orange pellets are roe, the lobster’s eggs. The “green stuff” is the tomalley, i.e., the liver. Many consider it a delicacy but the food police will warn you that the liver is the organ that detoxifies the blood and thus can contain toxins. Your choice but it is edible and delectable to some.
• Can you eat those “fingers” on the sides of the crab’s body?
• What about the darker spots of meat you sometimes find on tuna or salmon?