Don’t toss out those veggies in the fridge drawer just because they’re slightly droopy! From soups to sauces, there are several ways to salvage these veggies, even after they’re past their prime (but not yet rotten or moldy).
MAKE VEGETABLE STOCK
A pot of homemade vegetable stock [link to: Homemade stock for healthy winter soups] is the perfect place to dump most of those not-quite-perfect vegetables at the bottom of your refrigerator drawer. Just because veggies aren’t still perky and crisp doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of flavor inside them, and slowly cooking them is the best way to extract the goodness. Vegetable stock can be made with a virtually endless combination of vegetables, but the key ingredients are onions, carrots, and celery. After that, a combination of leeks, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, green beans, fennel, chard, potatoes, parsnips, squash, bell peppers and eggplant can be tossed in for added depth and flavor, depending on what you’ve got rolling around at home. Add in some fresh or dried herbs, and after simmering everything for a few hours, no one will ever know what the veggies looked like when they went into the pot.
Lettuces and greens are often wilted simply because they’re dried out. You can add life back to them but soaking them in cold water for fifteen or thirty minutes. Simply fill a clean sink or bowl with cool water and ice cubes and submerge the wilted leaves until they’ve crisped up. If you’re not in a hurry to use them, you can put the bowl with cold water and greens into the fridge and store them that way overnight. When you remove the greens, they should have regained some of their crunch and will be ready to eat after spinning or patting them dry. To firm up other vegetables like carrots and celery, it helps to add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the ice bath. Trim off an inch of the celery stalk or top of the carrot before submerging.
If you’ve got vegetables that are past their prime but you’re still aren’t quite ready to use them, most of them can be tossed in a zip-lock bag and saved in the freezer for a later pot of stock. Or chop them into bite size pieces before freezing, so you can pull out the bag of frozen vegetables later and add them to a slow cooker with meat and other seasonings for a meal with minimal effort.
For vegetables that are slightly soft and limp, one of the best ways to utilize them is in a cheesy baked casserole. Broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, squash and eggplant can all be sliced up and utilized. Or consider boiling some of them and mashing them with potatoes for added flavor and nutrients.
SERVE THEM WILTED
So you had plans to make a spinach salad, but you waited a day too long and now it’s a little wilted. If you don’t want to try reviving the greens, you can simply embrace the fact that it’s no longer crisp and serve it as a warm, wilted side dish. Spinach, chard, and kale can all be lightly sautéed in oil and added to a variety of dishes—from pasta to chicken—for added greens.