Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vegetable Bin Broth

Fridge clean-out day.  I didn't plan it that way, but when I opened the bin this morning, so many melancholy veggies looked up at me with those big, sad eyes.  I knew it would be Vegetable Bin Broth day.  Vegetable Bin Broth is the perfect antidote for pouting veggies.  Almost anything that is so far gone you wouldn't buy it from the market, but not actually rotten can be put into the pot to create a delicious, healthy soup base.  Use it now, or freeze it for later.  

Here's the recipe.  Don't despair that my measurements are not exact.  You really can't do any harm here as long as you have adequate water in the pot with the veggies.  Quantities depend on how many veggies you're trying to get rid of, and how big a pot you're using.  And you will notice I don't have you remove skins or leaves.  These add flavor, color and nutrition, and you'll strain them out later.  If you don't have a regular strainer, use your spaghetti strainer!

Vegetable Bin Broth

Nice to Have Ingredients:

You can make a nice soup with only the following ingredients.  But even if you don't have all of these, you can just use whatever you have.  Really!

An onion or two, quartered.  Don't even bother to remove the skin
Two or three cloves of garlic.  Leave their skins on too.
A couple of carrots cut into pieces

Pepper corns
A bit of salt
A couple of bay leaves or a sprout of thyme or parsley 

Optional ingredients

Whatever uncooked, limp but un-dead vegetables in your fridge. Celery, root vegetables, peppers, past-prime (but never sour tasting) tomatoes, parsley or other herbs, broccoli, brussel  sprouts, squash, mushrooms.  Anything, really.  The only vegetables I strongly advise against are cucumber and particularly starchy vegetables like potatoes.  Trim off bad spots and stems, but use the leafy tops.

This soup is perfect for vegetarians and vegans, but if you are a meat-eater and want to  toss in a couple of chicken quarters or beef bones, feel free.  But don't feel you have to.  A purely vegetable stock is a lighter concoction with a more delicate flavor, and you'll find lots of uses for it.   Some of my favorites:  as a base for Asian soup recipes, a flavorful broth for steaming or poaching fish, or a substitute for water when simmering rice, lentils or beans.   


Toss whatever you've got into your pot, and add water to just cover the vegetables.  Now however high the water comes in the pot, add more water till it's double.  Bring to a boil and then quickly reduce the heat and simmer until the onions are translucent and the carrots have exchanged their vibrant orange for a muted rust color.  The process could take anywhere between twenty minutes and an hour, depending on how much stuff you've got in your pot.  

By the way, if you get involved in something else and forget your soup, and when you return, there's hardly any soup in the pot, do not despair.  Unless you've let it go so long that the veggies are scorched and stuck to the bottom of the pot, just add water back to reconstitute the very concentrated broth that's left.  It will be fine.  If it is scorched, you'll have to toss.  Scorched veggies leave an acrid taste in the broth.  Yuck.  If you're like me, and prone to time lapses where you look up at the clock and entire half days have gone by, consider setting a timer that goes off loudly.

To know when you're done, use your eyes.  When the colors are dull, the broth is ready.  Don't worry about how your veggies look - you're not serving them.  You're getting rid of those veggie carcasses as soon as they transfer their healthy goodness into the pot.  If they're still bright and colorful, then their value is still in the vegetable and not yet in your broth.  

Once your broth is ready for you, use a strainer placed over another pot to separate the vegetables from the broth.  Let the broth cool and refrigerate it.  Reheat your broth for soup tonight, adding some cut up veggies, rice, or lentils before serving, or you can freeze it for later use.  

I don't want to guilt you, but consider tossing your spent veggies into a composter.  They are still good for enriching your garden soil.  I seriously recommend clicking here to see this little composter guy.  It fits right under your counter so you don't have to run your scraps outside.  It is air tight, surprisingly doesn't smell at all, and turns out some really great compost, as well as compost "tea" for your house plants.  By the way, compost tea needs to be seriously diluted before using.

Once you've gotten into the habit of creating delicious stock from your vegetable bin, you will swear off bullion cubes forever.

Bon appetite!

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