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!

Farm to Table Challenge - Turmeric Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

This week, I am participating in a Farm to Table challenge, hosted by Selva Beat. The rules are to make at least one dish utilizing items only found at the Farmers' Market, excluding oils and spices. You can head over to the challenge's directory page to learn about the challenge, the contributors, and to see fabulous recipes throughout the week. You may also want to read up on How to Shop at the Farmers' Market since I know you'll be inspired to get cooking after reading all of these great recipes!

I count myself very fortunate to have been raised by a woman who spent her Sundays at the local Farmers Market and many of her evenings cooking a delicious, healthy meal for her family. My mother instilled in me a sense of awe and joy in choosing and cooking with fresh produce, and those skills have served me well in my adulthood.

I am also so lucky to live in New York City where there are bountiful Farmers Markets on almost every day of the week! The Union Square Farmers Market is my personal favorite because I can find pretty much anything I want, including quinoa, popcorn, and fresh cut flowers. This week the cornmeal from Oak Grove Mills in New Jersey caught my eye and inspired me to try something new; polenta!

This dish is a great transitional recipe from Summer into Fall as it is warm and hearty but tastes best with a highlight of summer vegetables. Of course, the added turmeric really makes the magic happen here, with its incredible properties as a digestive aid, anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. I am so lucky to be able to find turmeric at my Farmers Market (only on certain days!), but have also been easily able to find it at most grocery stores as a powder in the spice section. This recipe works without the turmeric, of course, but the added golden color and health benefits certainly don’t hurt!

Turmeric Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

Cook time: 45 minutes. Serves about 4 people.

Ingredients for polenta:

  • 1-2 cups cornmeal (coarse ground is best, but you can use any size cornmeal grounds)
  • 4-5 cups water (more water = less thick polenta)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric

Directions for polenta:

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Once water is boiling, add salt. Then add cornmeal in a steady, slow stream into the boiling water. Whisk or stir vigorously for about 4 minutes or until you have achieved a relatively smooth consistency. Many people tend to overmix their polenta at this stage, if you have a few lumps and bumps, don’t worry about them, they’ll take care of themselves later!
  3. Put a tightly fitted lid on your polenta, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Be sure to stir the polenta every 10 minutes, making sure that nothing is burning or sticking too much to the pot. At about 20 minutes, add 2 tsp of turmeric.
  4. After 40 minutes your polenta should be nice and creamy. You can serve it now or let it sit on the stove for up to 15 more minutes before serving. Once you take it off the heat or store it in your fridge, the polenta will start to firm up. Polenta leftovers are nice and thick and are great for cutting into thick rounds and pan-frying!

Ingredients for roasted vegetables:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 4 small beets
  • 4 small carrots
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 medium eggplant (the long, skinny kind work best for this dish)
  • 1 large leek

Directions for roasted vegetables:

  1. Peel garlic, onions, potatoes, beets. Chop all vegetables into similar sizes, I personally prefer a 1-inch chunk.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large bowl, cover chopped veggies with coconut oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Toss until everything is coated on all sides.
  4. Transfer veggie mixture into a casserole dish or similar pan for the oven. Add water to the pan, cover (with lid or foil) and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. At 30 minutes, check your vegetables. If they are soft all the way through (the potatoes and carrots will be the telling vegetables here as they take longer to cook) you are ready to serve! If they aren’t soft enough to poke with a fork yet, check in on them again in 10 minutes, repeat as needed.
  6. Serve vegetables from a slotted spoon to avoid getting too much liquid.

Serve your roasted vegetables in a bowl atop a bed of golden, steaming polenta and enjoy a hearty, healthy meal!