I’m not one for making resolutions, mostly because I don’t want to be disappointed when I can’t keep them. But I am in the mood for some food cleansing to start the year off right. One of the best and easiest things I can do for my family is to make homemade vegetable broth. It has a clean, crisp flavor that is perfect for a soup base. It gives just about any type of soup a rich, savory flavor that you simply cannot get from canned stock or broth. It’s rich enough to drink on its own, flavored with a little salt and pepper.
As simple as possible
Although I’ve seen fairly elaborate recipes for broth, I want to keep this as simple as possible. To help me keep the resolution to do it. So, I keep a plastic bag in my freezer, and every time I trim a vegetable I rinse the trimmings and toss them into the bag.
I use the trimmings from garlic, onions, greens, mushrooms, carrots, celery, etc. Onion skins in particular give a wonderful flavor to the broth. When the bag is full, I dump it all into a large stockpot, add a couple of bay leaves and a handful of whatever other herbs I have in the garden or dried on the shelf.
Simmer slow and long
I cover the vegetables with water and simmer very gently for four or five hours. Once they’re all reduced to mush, I pour the stock through a strainer and divide it up to freeze. I freeze it in one cup batches so it’s simple enough to pull out a chunk, thaw and use it. Toss in some pasta, some sauteed onions, a handful of chopped greens, a can of cannellini beans, and Voila! You have a hearty soup with tons of subtle flavors on the table in 15 minutes. And there’s also a bit of nostalgia about always having a pot of soup bubbling on the back burner.
You can make almost any kind of brothy soup by starting with a mirepoix (French – named for Duke of Mirepoix and the community he ruled) or soffritto (Called the Holy Trinity in Italian – translates as fried softly).
Chop a small onion, small carrot and a couple of stalks of celery. Saute gently in two tablespoons of olive oil until soft but not browned. This releases the flavors to infuse your soup. Add other vegetables and greens as desired, cooked beans, cooked grains or pasta. Add 2-3 cups of your homemade vegetable broth and heat through, seasoning as desired.
Cabbage White Bean Soup
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
2 medium thin-skinned potatoes, sliced
1 c. sliced swiss chard or kale
½ small head cabbage, sliced
1 c. cooked white beans
3-4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic if using on low-medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to simmer. Simmer until potatoes are soft when pierced. Season to taste and serve hot.
Kale and Kasha Soup
2 T. olive oil
1 ½ c. chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 c. vegetable broth
¼ t. dried oregano
1 ½ c. cooked kasha or other grain
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed and divided
½ lb. kale, trimmed and chopped
Heat 1 T. oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook 3 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and cook 5 minutes more, or until onion is lightly browned. Stir in broth, kasha, tomatoes, 1 cup beans, oregano. Bring to a boil. Press half of the kale into the liquid with a wooden spoon until it wilts. Press remaining kale into liquid. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until kale is tender.
Purée remaining beans in food processor and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or sriracha.