As a vegetarian (though not a strict one), I find myself constantly cooking with vegetable broth. Buying good broth is expensive, and I never know what to do with those boxes with the screw tops. I also hate seeing perfectly good parts of vegetables go to waste. So, out of necessity, economy, and a concern for my overflowing compost bin, I started making my own vegetable broth. It is easy, only takes a few hours, saves money, and lets you get the most out of your produce.
I add it to tomato sauces and homemade hummus. I use it to cook beans, chilis, or when un-freezing frozen vegetables. Cooking brown rice in vegetable broth gives it a richer taste and adds a deep brown color. (I have to give my mother credit for this technique-it was one of the first things she taught me about the basics of cooking.) Cooking with homemade broth gives dishes a more personal touch, and you will be more in control of the flavors. If you’re feeling creative, try a few versions with different vegetables, or buy specific vegetables you think will complement each other.
When chopping up an onion, a head of broccoli, a cucumber-any vegetable that leaves you with skins, ends, or cast-offs-save them and store them in your freezer. Leek and kale stalks, artichoke leaves, potato skins, carrot tops, and tomato cores all work really well. You can even include fruit: if you’re hulling strawberries, toss their tops in too, but banana peels and apple cores are out. When you’ve amassed a significant amount of frozen scraps, dump it all in a big pot on your stovetop and add about twice as much water. No need to get technical or precise since it’s just like making a pot of stew or soup with your leftovers.
Madeleine Ignon is a Los Angeles native, recent graduate of Connecticut College, and current resident of San Francisco. She is an artist (see her work at madeleineignon.com), food lover, and a most-of-the-time vegetarian whose philosophy in the kitchen is that things should be kept simple, intuitive, and sustainable when possible.