A quick soak in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes is often enough to reinvigorate wilted veggies. Bendy carrots will straighten right up, lettuce will crisp, and limp broccoli will find its strength again. And even if they can’t be restored, some veggies you intended to eat raw — carrots, celery, and greens — can still shine in a cooked dish.
Toast stale chips and crackers for a minute or two in a regular or toaster oven to crisp them right back up. This works for bread, too — day-or-two-old bread turns into perfectly acceptable toast. And those crumbs and small bits at the bottom of a bag of chips or crackers add a lively crunch when sprinkled over salads.
Is your soup too salty? Add vinegar, lemon juice, or brown sugar to fix the problem — or dilute with water, crushed tomatoes or unsalted broth. You can also pop a raw, peeled potato into the pot of soup to absorb some of the salt. Remove the potato before serving (and combine it with another boiled potato to make a not-too-salty mash).
The timer broke, the phone rang, or you just got distracted. Whatever the reason, the next time you burn a dish, don’t just toss it right away. You can remove burned beans or stew from the heat, scoop the unblackened portion into a new pot and cover with a damp cloth for 10 minutes. This removes much of the burned flavor. And, if the dish still tastes unappetizing, try adding barbecue, sweet chili, or hot sauce. (By the way, these sauces work wonders on recipes that turn out bland or weren’t seasoned quite right.) Still inedible? Okay, you gave it your best, you may now order takeout.
When in doubt, puree. Overcooked vegetables and dishes that disappoint can always be transformed into soups or sauces. Just toss them in the blender with some soup stock, milk, or cream. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes and even leftover stir fry are excellent for this.
If you’re really ambitious, you can revive kitchen scraps. Onion and green onion bottoms, celery, and lettuce cores can all be replanted to generate more of themselves. Take a look at the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook to learn more.