I’m admittedly obsessed with minimizing waste in the kitchen. It’s immensely satisfying to me on both environmental and culinary levels. My favorite two games in the world are: figuring out what to make with the week’s fridge remains and figuring out what to make with random grocery leftovers from shoots. Yes, I compost too. I just can’t see all of that possibly useful food waste and potential energy sitting in a landfill taking way too long to decompose.
I understand that composting might feel too daunting or may not be an easy thing to do in your area. I mean, I totally want you to reconsider because I promise it’s not hard, but I get it. On this Earth Day 2017, perhaps you might consider an alternate method of veggie scrap reincarnation: save them up and transform them into a healthier broth than you’re buying in the store! It’s so easy, basically free, and you’ll be making more delicious risottos, soups, and sauces than you were before. Win-win-win.
I like to save my veggie scraps from the week in a gallon Ziplock bag in the fridge. Almost anything is fair game here and onions, carrots, and celery are a great base. I have often read that it’s not good to use cruciferous vegetables but I’ve found that a little bit is fine and not overpowering, especially if you have enough sweet things like carrot and sweet potato peels or bits. I love throwing in onion skins and beet peels, but just know that can affect the color. The most important thing is to make sure that the stalks, leaves, and ends that you are using are clean because you don’t want dirt in your broth!
Here’s a typical mix of what I’ll include along with the holy trinity mentioned above: bits and ends of leeks and ginger, fennel pieces and fronds, peels of sweet potato, garlic including the skin, mushroom stems (the best for depth of flavor!), carrot tops, spinach, kale, or chard that’s on its last legs, plus herbs like parsley and thyme, a bay leaf or two, and peppercorns. It’s always good to consider how you’re going to use the broth and whether you want to include things like fennel, garlic, and ginger which have such strong notes. You want to avoid anything moldy or rotten, obviously. If you think it’ll take you longer than a week to collect the scraps or make the stock, pop your storage bag or container in the freezer instead.
The process is simple: wash off any dirt and roughly chop your veg. (You want about 4 cups of veg and that will yield about 2 quarts of broth.) Throw them in a big stockpot and cover them with water, but not so much that you can’t stir the pot. Add any herbs, bay leaf, or peppercorn. Bring to just under a boil over medium-high heat, then simmer on medium-low for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Strain and store, letting the broth cool completely before putting in the refrigerator or freezer. I don’t usually salt the broth until I know what sort of plans I have for it. Remember to mark the storage containers, especially if you’ve included something of note like ginger! The broth will keep in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for three months. You can also experiment with sautéing the onion, carrots, and celery before adding the rest of the veggies and water or by roasting all of the veg first too.