Saturday, January 15, 2011

Veggie Broth: The Trash Factor

I like to keep broth in the house – usually in the freezer – so if I want to make soup or curry on a whim I don’t have to resort to water. Naturally, certain soups do better with certain broths, but veggie broth is pretty innocuous in a pinch. Especially if you’re making a recipe that says you can use water instead. Or if you’re, say, making a lentil soup that only calls for water. Substituting broth – or some broth – adds a little extra body to the soup.

The best thing about broth is that it can be a great way to clean out your fridge. You can, of course, buy all of your broth ingredients, follow a strict recipe, cut them up fresh, etc, etc, blah, blah.


you can cobble together a broth out of whatever is about to go bad in your fridge. This is particularly useful for those of us who live alone and don’t always make it through our produce in time. And for those of us who hate throwing anything away, even the stems. Veggies in frozen broth form keep just about forever.

Below is the recipe for the broth I made today, with some suggestions for mixing and matching below:

Asian-Inspired Veggie Broth

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 oz.-ish, sliced mushrooms

1 bunch cilantro stems

½-1 tbsp galangal*

1 stem lemongrass


one: Heat some olive oil on med-high in the bottom of a large pot. When hot, add onions and cook for a minute. When fragrant, add jalapeño, mushrooms and cilantro stems and cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally.

two: Add 8+ cups of water plus remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 min – 1 hr.

three: Strain broth into a large bowl to cool. Press veggies to get all of the liquid out and dispose. When the broth has cooled, portion out to your liking and freeze, or use immediately.

makes about 6 cups.

I don’t usually put mushrooms in my lemongrass broth, but I had some that weren’t looking too hot, so I decided to throw them in rather than toss them. Aside from that, this is one of my standards. Feel free to take out the jalapeño if spicy isn’t your style.

etc: Some other things that can go in broth?

Carrots (add sweetness)

Potatoes (hardy)

Celery (mild)

Lettuce leaves (mild)

Parsley (leaves and/or stems)

Shallots (onion+)



Any other chilies you like

Tomato paste

Miso (any variety – red goes nicely with mushrooms)

Feel free to play around with amounts. The trash can broth process may not produce a broth you want to sip alone every time, but I’ve never made a veggie broth that ended up too strong, too bitter, too offensive to put into something else. It seems relatively foolproof, as long as you’ve got a handle on the amount of salt you toss in. And you can always add more water.

I would avoid the brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc. – because they tend to have a bit of a sulfury smell. But basically anything goes. Think about matching colors – bright greens make a brighter tasting broth, earth tones make an earthy broth, mix and you get a layered broth, etc, etc, blah, blah.

Also, I really like to freeze this in known amounts, so I don’t have to remeasure after it’s defrosted. Instead, I can just defrost the amount I know I need. Usually, I freeze it in 2 or 4 cup amounts. Since I never throw anything out, I have several preferred containers. Large yogurt containers are perfect for 4 cups, and those medium-sized clear deli containers that things like olives, feta cheese, etc come in are perfect for 2 cups. Containers like yogurt containers tell you how much they hold, more or less, or you can pour the stock into a measuring cup and from there to your choosen container.

*galangal is used in Asian cooking. It’s a root in the ginger family with something of a ginger flavor, but it’s more of a bitter/sour and less of a hot/spicy. I happen to have some in a jar – prolly purchased at Whole Foods – on hand because I have a particular cook book devoted to noodle dishes that often calls for it. It’s not necessary. You could consider substituting ginger, but beware of the extra zing.

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