Broccoli-Stem Vinaigrette Is the Zero-Waste Condiment You Need on a Weeknight

Turn the vegetable scrap into a zesty topping for whole roasted fish

Roasted Branzino with Broccoli-Stem Vinaigrette
Get the recipe for Roasted Branzino with Broccoli-Stem Vinaigrette »Jenny Huang

We pore over hundreds of cookbooks throughout the year here at SAVEUR—both for inspiration in the test kitchen and for our monthly Cookbook Club—so it's rare for the same book to remain at the top of our ever-growing pile. However, one recent standout did just that: Waste Not: How to Get The Most from Your Food by the James Beard Foundation.

Since its inception in 1986, the JBF has worked to support chefs and restaurants through a number of initiatives, including an ongoing dinner series, and most notably, its annual awards. Lately, the organization has also ramped up its focus on environmental and social justice issues as they relate to the restaurant industry. Part of this effort includes Waste Not, a compilation of recipes developed by chefs who participated in the JBF's Boot Camp for Policy and Change. Each recipe is designed to spotlight underappreciated ingredients—generally, the off cuts and other parts of meat, fruit, and vegetables that tend to end up in the trash.

The staggering amount of food waste in the restaurant industry has come under scrutiny in recent years, and chefs across the country have been striving to raise awareness through zero-waste dinners and pop-up restaurants, and restaurant leftover donation programs. They've also been finding creative solutions in their own kitchens. As explained in the introduction to Waste Not, "Nobody knows more about how to fully utilize every last leaf, foot, bone, stem, and rind than chefs, both out of respect for the ingredients themselves and to meet their bottom lines." Ingredients rescued from the waste bin are, effectively, free—and they make just as much sense to salvage in the home kitchen. After all, food waste is not just a restaurant problem: the average American household throws away more than $1,500 worth of food every year.

Thinking about minimizing food waste on top of getting dinner on the table can be overwhelming, so try starting with something simple, such as broccoli stems. The oft-discarded scrap is the base for one of our favorite recipes in Waste Not: a vinaigrette from chef Evan Hanczor of Brooklyn's Egg. More of a chunky salsa than a traditional vinaigrette, the savory-sour condiment teams broccoli stems with anchovies and whole-grain mustard. While Hanczor notes that it would be delicious on roasted potatoes or broccoli florets, or grilled chicken or fish, we decided to spoon the vinaigrette over crispy, whole roasted fish in an effort to be even more waste-conscious. Whole-fish cooking requires less processing, generates less waste, and according to sustainable seafood expert Barton Seaver, "encourages a thoughtful approach to fish consumption, helping to avoid the complete collapse of our delicate ocean stocks."

Here’s how to pull off this impressive, almost-zero-waste weeknight dinner.

Clean and Oil the Fish

Patting fish dry and drizzling liberally with olive oil or clarified butter.
Pat the fish dry and drizzle liberally with olive oil or clarified butter.Jenny Huang

Two 1-pound fish make a dramatic presentation for dinner but still fit comfortably on a single, large sheet pan. Sustainably farmed branzino, a type of European bass, is increasingly easy to find but can also be swapped out for red snapper, porgy, or lake trout. Ask your fishmonger to gut and remove the scales for you, or do it yourself. Once you get the fish home, rinse well to remove any residue from the cavity and any scales that may still be clinging to the skin. Use paper towels to pat the fish dry inside and out, then rub the fish all over with extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter.

Season Lightly

Season the cavity of the fish.
Take care to season the cavity well.Jenny Huang

Season the fish inside and out with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then stuff the fish with a bit of minced garlic; the vinaigrette is highly seasoned, and fresh branzino has a mild and buttery flavor of its own that doesn’t require much added flavoring.

Roast Upright for the Crispiest Skin

Propping the fish upright and covering in aluminum foil.
Propping the fish upright allows the skin to crisp evenly and minimizes the risk of tearing.Jenny Huang

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with oiled aluminum foil, then crunch two additional long, oiled sheets of foil up into oblong stands for the branzini; the goal is to hold the fish upright (cavity-down) while covering as little of the sides as possible with the foil. Position the fish at least 4 inches apart. This will allow the fish to cook evenly and the skin to crisp on both sides without flipping. Transfer to a 500°F oven and cook until the fish are cooked through and the skin is crispy, 18–22 minutes. Be sure to thoroughly crisp the skin, and don’t worry too much about the flesh drying out—roasting fish on the bone keeps it moist.

Finely Mince the Broccoli Stems

Chopping hearty broccoli stems with food processor.
A food processor makes quick work of chopping hearty broccoli stems.Jenny Huang

As the fish roasts, prepare the vinaigrette. Broccoli stems have all the sweet flavor of the prized florets but are often discarded because of their tough and stringy texture. Chopping them finely breaks up their fibers while retaining the vegetable’s delicate crunch. Trim any dried ends or bruised bits, then chop coarsely by hand. Transfer to a food processor and pulse to mince, or alternatively, chop finely by hand.

Finish the Vinaigrette

Fresh citrus brightens the peppery, pungent vinaigrette.
Fresh citrus brightens the peppery, pungent vinaigrette.Jenny Huang

Hanczor enhances broccoli’s mustardy notes with a bit of hot chile, raw garlic, and grainy mustard. Plenty of lemon juice and zest brighten the condiment, and salty anchovies contribute a savory richness. The vinaigrette keeps well for up to three days in the fridge; stir in a handful of coarsely chopped parsley just before scooping some of the mixture over the fish.

Dress the Fish Before Serving

roasted branzino
Charring lemon halves in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet caramelizes some of their sugars and adds a toasty sweetness to the roasted fish.Jenny Huang

Serve with steamed or roasted new potatoes, fresh or charred lemons for squeezing, and a mineral-y white wine. For an added bonus, freeze the leftover heads and bones for your next batch of fish stock.