If I’m going to make a pot of soup like I described in the previous post, I always like to deepen the flavor a little bit by adding broth instead of water. But packaged broth can be expensive, and have too much sodium for me, or even hidden oils. . Over the years I’ve read a lot of recipes for homemade broth, and never felt like I had the patience or energy or even all of the ingredients at the same time to do it “right.” But then one day many years ago, I read in my old vegetarian cookbook, The Greens, that stock could be made from kale stems. I tried it one night for the kale potato soup in the book and was pleasantly surprised how sweet and flavorful it was, and how easy. Then I remembered Anna Thomas, the author of The Vegetarian Epicure, and most recently the wonderful Love Soup (which has lots of vegan options), and her potato peel broth. I started noticing I was cutting up a lot of veggies and tossing odds and ends into the compost bucket. I started saving these odds and ends in a freezer bag. And when I had enough, I would throw them in a pot, add a little garlic powder and some chopped parsley and let it simmer. Like this:
Over time, I found this combination of odds and ends, which is what you see above, to be my favorite: the green ends of leeks, winter squash innards (threads and seeds), kale stems. Other good add-ins are potato and sweet potato peels or bits, celery ends, carrots ends, onion ends and peels, parsnip ends, and mushroom, collard or chard stems. Mix and match the veggie scraps as you go.
Cover them with water, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low, and let simmer covered for at least a couple of hours. Strain, use, or store in frig or even freeze it.
This is the kind of process that actually improves with benign neglect, which means it’s perfect for me. I can leave it on for too long. I can use whatever I have on hand. I can play it by ear and not measure how many cups of water to how many cups of veggie scraps. It always comes out fine. Each time it tastes a little different, depending on which veggie scraps predominate. That’s why I like to have a leek green and a few kale stems and squash innards as a base, if I can. They all add a depth and sweetness to the broth.
You can make an instant soup with this simply by heating some of it up and adding chard, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, or whatever suits your fancy, and let them simmer a few minutes until the veggies are just done. Pour it over any grain and/or beans you may have, or any little bit of leftover something (like chopped baked sweet potato or a bit of chili or red beans) and you have an impromptu bowl of soup. Nice for this time of year when I can see my own breath and it’s dark at 4:30. Or when those tenacious viral bugs are making their rounds. Or I just want something hot to help me get warm. This will do the trick. And it costs nothing more than the veggies I already buy, and a little time to simmer some healthy magic.