Flavourful marinades, relishes and more — made from the delicious ingredients you usually toss

You definitely want to hang on to those watermelon rinds!

You definitely want to hang on to those watermelon rinds!

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Things aren't always what they seem at first glance — for instance, take that seemingly empty jar of pickles. Once you've crunched all of the pickles up you can pour the brine down the drain... or you can add a dash of that salty, tangy juice to cocktails, or a salad dressing. 

After you've made bacon, you can store the cooled bacon fat in the fridge to use for frying potatoes later. If you've used up your block of Parmesan cheese, you can save the rind and simmer it in a tomato sauce or a cream-based soup to add a flavour boost. And once you've scooped out the beans in a vanilla pod, you can add the pod to a canister of sugar or granola where it will impart vanilla flavour. 

The list can go on and on since everyday food items have almost infinite potential when you take a different look at them. Here are some suggestions you might not have considered for using your favourite foods in delicious new ways. And just a note that when using peels and rinds in cooking, it's ideal to use organic produce, and regardless, to wash the ingredients very well.

Coffee grinds 

Coffee can be used for more than a morning pick-me-up. You can use a leftover cup of the grinds to make a marinade for meat. Not only does coffee give off a distinct nutty and smoky flavour, but the acidity helps to tenderize the meat. Coffee grinds added to balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper makes for a fail-safe combination, and just think about the winning combination of coffee, ancho chili and smoked paprika.


Whenever you use a can of chickpeas, keep the liquid it's stored in. Called aquafaba, that liquid can mimic the properties of eggs when it comes to being whipped into things, like mayonnaise, mousse or meringues. Aquafaba works in an emulsion because of starches and proteins released from the chickpeas. You can also use the aquafaba from white beans, such as cannellinis or lima beans, but those may need more finessing, and some added ingredients (ideas abound online).

Citrus peels

Once you've squeezed or peeled a lemon, lime, or orange, keep the peel for a confit. Confiting citrus releases the oils in the peel that both help preserve it and elevate its floral and zesty notes. The simplest method starts with quartering whichever citrus peel you're using, coating the peel in an equal mixture of salt and sugar, and placing the slices — tightly layered — in a sterilized jar. Seal the jar for at least 3 days before consuming. When you plan to use the confit in a drink, dessert, dip, couscous, or meat dish, just make sure to cut out the fibrous white inside and use only the outer peel.

Watermelon rinds

Watermelons and relish are two things you see a lot of in summer… but not often in the same dish. The idea of making watermelon relish is not too out-of-the-box if you consider that watermelon rinds have a texture and taste similar to cucumbers. Simply cut and discard the dark green layer of the skin from the rinds, let the rinds sit in a brine bath (heavily salted water) for two to four hours, then chop the rinds into small cubes and and cook them with herbs or spices, vinegar, and sugar, just like you would in your favourite relish recipe. 

Apple cores 

If you make a recipe that requires a lot of apples, save the cores and peels to make applesauce, apple butter, or apple jam. (Here's a great, 4-ingredient recipe to work off for applesauce.) For a simple applesauce, boil apple cores, apple cider vinegar or water, sugar and a cinnamon stick in a pot over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes. Stir often, until the apples are soft, and when it's ready, pour the applesauce through a mesh strainer. 

Banana peels 

Banana peels are completely edible. They're packed with potassium vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and fibre. They're too bitter when eaten raw but when cooked, their sweetness really comes out. Once you look you'll find a ton of recipes out there that use banana peels in imaginative ways. You can infuse them in milk for desserts, add them to a smoothie for a vitamin boost, even marinate them in liquid smoke to fry to make "bacon", or to slow roast with a dry rub and some bbq sauce to make "pulled pork". 

Ariel Lefkowitz is a Canadian/American food writer, chef, and video journalist based in Montreal, Que. She has been a trained chef for over a decade. Ariel believes that cooking is a critical part of self-care that should be joyful, sustainable and accessible. She is currently developing a comedic cooking show, titled 'Cooking in the Cut'. Follow her at @cookinginthecut.

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