cooking tips & tricks

How to cook like a Zero-Waste Chef

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No one knows how to cook with maximum flavor and minimal waste quite like a chef. We challenged chef Charlie Knowles of Tender Greens in San Francisco to cook with a seasonal Imperfect box and he schooled us on everything related to delicious, no-waste cooking. Here are some tips we learned that you can apply in your kitchen

Save your fennel stalks

These green stalks and their feathery leaves make up most of the plant and are a real shame to throw out. Try adding yours to your next batch of vegetable stock. They have a wonderfully sweet, vegetal flavor!

Pickle your kale stems

They may look fibrous and unappetizing, but that firm texture becomes delicious once you chop your kale stems into coins and cover with your favorite pickle brine.

Use radish tops

They are healthy and have a bold, peppery taste. Serve them raw, as you would arugula, with your favorite dressing.

Make citrus salt

While checking out chef Charlie’s spice rack, he blew our mind with this zero-waste seasoning tip. The next time you’ve got a lot of citrus fruit around, zest a few tablespoons of it and pack it in a few cups of salt. The next day you’ll have an aromatic and versatile seasoning that’s amazing on anything from meat to roasted vegetables. Seriously, try making it tonight!

Sauté your radishes

If you’re not a fan of the pungent flavor of radishes, try sautéing them in oil over medium-high heat until they’re tender. Garnish with salt and fresh lemon juice. This technique sweetens them and makes a killer appetizer or side dish, especially if served alongside the radish greens.

Always massage your kale for salads

What this means is drizzling your kale with some oil, vinegar, and salt, and then squeezing the leaves firmly between your hands. This tenderizes your kale as well as seasons it and will make your final salad 100% better. You’ll know it’s working because your kale will change color from a lighter green to a much darker green!


  • Michele Bayle
    April 27, 2018 at 5:02 am

    Wow So many tips here! How are the radish tops cooked to maximize the flavor and what do you mean massage. I am assuming just rub it between your thumb and finger?

    Loving my perfectly imperfect box every other week!

    Healthy eating!
    XO – Michele

    • Reilly Brock
      April 27, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Hey Michele,

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed these tips. You can serve radish tops raw, as you would arugula. We enjoy them simply dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
      To massage your kale, drizzle it with your favorite oil, acid (ie lemon juice or vinegar), and some salt and then squeeze the leaves firmly between your hands until the kale changes color and softens. The action of massaging it will tenderize the kale by drawing out the water and help pre-season it before you dig in.

      I’m really glad that you’re loving your weekly box!
      Happy cooking!

  • Shelly Rees
    April 29, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    I take the radish leaves and dehydrate them and use them in the place of parsley.

    • Reilly Brock
      May 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

      Great tip! We’ll give that a try.

  • Brint Lewis
    May 1, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Go Charlie! That’s my boy.

    • Reilly Brock
      May 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

      Charlie is the best!


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