Kitchen Scrap Vegetable Stock

One of my favorite things in the wintertime is a hot, steaming bowl of soup. Ever since I was a kid, my go-to sick food has always been rice in a bowl of broth; it's simple, heartening and goes down easy. Though my mom always defaulted to a can of beef or chicken broth, this vegetarian is ready for an adequate alternative. Nobody wants to sacrifice flavor and with this homemade veggie broth, you certainly won't have to.

Kitchen scrap vegetable stock is full of flavor and nutrition from vegetable bits that would normally be discarded, thus stretching your food dollars that much further. My guilt at throwing vegetable scraps away is satisfyingly remedied by carefully placing every tomato stem, onion skin and carrot top in their designated freezer bag, awaiting the afternoon when they'll be transformed into a warm, salty broth. So say goodbye to overly salted boxes or cans of water that cost a precious $3 (and countless molecules of carbon in our atmosphere thanks to the processing plants and the trucks that bring those boxes to your store) and instead wave hello to an easy, house and heart warming recipe that will give you a kick all winter long.

Kitchen Scrap Vegetable Stock

Cook time: 1.5-2.5 hours

Ingredients for about 64oz of stock:

  • 1 gallon zip-loc bag full of frozen scraps
  • 64+ oz of water (use your to-be stock container to measure, then add a cup of water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • other optional spices: ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, galangal, turmeric, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme.....

Directions:

  1. Save up veggie scraps over time, store in the freezer. When your bag is full, you're ready for a stock day!
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Transfer the contents of your scrap bag into a baking pan or dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other spices then drizzle with olive oil
  4. Cover and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
  5. If you used a baking pan, now is the time to transfer your roasted scraps into a large pot. Fill your pot or dutch oven with enough water to cover the now-roasted scraps, which should be just a bit more than the amount of liquid that will fit in your stock container.
  6. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and let simmer for at least an hour and up to two. Avoid letting it simmer for much longer than two hours as the extra time can cause the flavors to cook off, leaving you with a dully flavored stock.
  7. After simmering for 1-2 hours, take pot off the heat and let cool until you can safely touch the vegetables without burning yourself. Then, with a large bowl and colander, start to strain the stock from the scraps. You will probably have to do this in a few batches as the bowl will fill up and make a mess. Toss (or, ideally, compost) the used vegetable scraps and transfer your strained stock into its designated container.
  8. Stock will keep for 2-3 weeks if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Add different seasonings to mix up your flavors depending on the type of soup you are making - I love using lemongrass to punch up the flavor for a Pho-inspired noodle soup. Though, I will often use my stock instead of water to simply cook rice or roast vegetables as it rounds out the warm flavors really nicely.

Avoid the scraps from these veggies as they will make your stock taste bitter and gross:

  • kale
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • brussel sprouts
  • lettuce

Optional veggies for stock:

  • beets (tend to take over color and flavor)
  • corn (tends to take over the flavor)
  • jalapenos (so spicy)

Veggies that will make the best stock:

  • onion skins
  • garlic skins
  • potato skins
  • sweet potato skins
  • carrot tops
  • celery bottoms & tops
  • leek bottoms & tops
  • green onion bottoms
  • tomato stems & scraps
  • mushroom stems & scraps
  • bell pepper stems, seeds & scraps
  • parsley stems 
  • cilantro stems
  • rosemary stems
  • thyme stems

What do you put in your vegetable stock? Show me what you make!

Funky Pesto

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, basil, parmesan, olive oil and a little lemon juice. I've made a few adjustments.

My pesto is parmesan-free and totally vegan, because it's cheaper this way and it will keep longer. While I have made pesto with pine nuts, I normally make it with walnuts instead. I can't recall what prompted me to do this - maybe it was the lack of availability of pine nuts in city stores. Or maybe it was the price again. Either way, the walnuts actually give the pesto an even more nutty and rich flavor with the added bonus of some great texture.

Truth be told, you can really make pesto with anything. As long as you have the nuts, the greens, and the olive oil you are good to go. It's all about the flavors you want dressing your pasta or your baguette - if you are looking for sharpness try some arugula, for freshness try cilantro. If you are just looking to use up some weird veggie parts (ahem broccoli stems) feel free to throw 'em in the mix!

Funky (Yet Delicious) Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • a few pinches each of salt and pepper (don't ask me to measure this stuff)

Directions:

  1. Toss your nuts and your garlic clove in the food processor, whir away until nicely broken up. 
  2. Add everything else! Be sure to include your basil stems, they are nice and flavorful just like the leaves, plus they give you more pesto volume. 
  3. Edit to taste. Add more oil if you desire a smoother pesto. Add other ingredients to play around with flavors, maybe add more garlic if you are feeling spicy. Have fun with it!

Eat that shit on pasta, on pizza, on baguettes, or even on a salad. It should keep for a bit more than a week, not that you'll have any left by then.