Monday, November 12, 2012

Trash into treasure: homemade vegetable stock from scraps

Vegetable stock is delicious, but it's expensive to buy and a pain to make. The idea of keeping vegetable scraps to make it from (saving hassle and expense) is an old one, but the scraps always spoiled before I had enough to make a balanced broth. But a few years ago, a friend of ours mentioned that he just keeps the scraps in the freezer until he has enough. Brilliant! We now keep a large tub in the freezer and wait until it's full to make vegetable stock. Using a pressure cooker it only takes about 35 minutes or so to cook (we cook it for 25 minutes on high after it's up to pressure).

Here's what it looks like before cooking:
Vegetable stock

In this batch we had leek greens, parsnip and carrot peels, red and yellow tomato ends, mushroom stems, and garlic ends. Other times we put in celery leaves, sweet potato or butternut squash peels, sometimes even kale stems for health (although inexplicably our dog loves kale stems, so she usually gets those now). Things that are slightly blemished are fine to go in (you'll filter out the solids anyway) even if you wouldn't put them in soup. Just nothing that has spoiled. Also, don't put too much onion / garlic or they can dominate the flavor.

dump the big bowl of frozen scraps into a pressure cooker
If you don't plan to compost it in a worm bin afterwards, add some salt (maybe 1/2 tsp) which will help to pull the flavors out
cook on high 25 minutes
strain out into a big glass bowl, use some in a recipe right away if you like (or put in the fridge if you'll use it within a few days). Break the rest up into 2 cup increments and store in the freezer for whenever you need some vegetable stock

We make ours salt-free because afterwards the cooked scraps go into our worm bin. So we get remarkably good fresh veggie broth for free (and by freezing it, we always have some available), and nothing gets wasted since it all gets composted in the end and was just scraps that we wouldn't use otherwise anyway! This is truly one of our favorite kitchen tricks.

What has vegan lady eaten lately?

Vegan lady finds herself too busy to write here more often than not now that she's back in grad school, and I can't keep up with all of the great stuff we eat on my own. So here's a quick sampling of some of what we've been eating lately. Sorry there are no recipes, but leave a comment if you want one and we'll see what we can do.

Seitan braised in red wine mushroom sauce (incredible): Seitan braised in red wine mushroom sauce

with some kale added for health: Kale and seitan in red wine mushroom sauce

tempeh tacos w/ Mexican slaw (the tempeh used the marinade recipe from "fajitas" on Tempeh tacos with Mexican slaw

Simple Thai salad (nothing fancy, just a way to use up some leftover peanut-coconut dipping sauce from our spring rolls): Simple Thai salad

Roasted cardoon, jerusalem artichoke, and parsnip: Roasted Cardoon, Jerusalem Artichoke, and Parsnip

If you have never heard of cardoon before (we hadn't), it's a relative of the artichoke which looks like celery but tastes like a bitter artichoke: Cardoon

Raw parsnip beet salad with pineapple-mint dressing: Parsnip-beet salad with pineapple mint dressing

Bonus points for making the salad with striped Chioggia beets: Striped Chioggia beets

But still good if you make it with normal beets (we liked it enough to make it twice): Raw beet parsnip salad

and finally, pumpkin parsnip kale lasagna (with parsnips FINALLY at the farmer's market, I just can't help myself): Pumpkin parsnip kale lasagna

A simple three-course Thai meal: Tom Yum, Thai Spring Rolls, Coconut Rice w/ Mango

We recently saw some fresh galangal (looks like ginger, but has a different, sort of flowery odor) at the farmer's market  and were inspired to make a Thai meal. Ever since I had a bowl of mind-blowing tom yum in Hawaii I have been wanting to try and recreate it.

Once we'd decided to do that, why not Thai spring rolls and mango coconut rice?

Thai spring rolls Coconut sticky rice with mango
In planning the soup, I thought back to that eye-opening bowl I'd had on our  honeymoon. The key difference from most tom yum I'd had was the strength and simplicity of the flavors; the flavors of the large inedible chunks of lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves in the soup blended together and made it clear that this soup meant business. Anyway, I didn't want our guests to have to pick out inedible chunks, but I still wanted to focus on the flavor of the broth because the typical ingredients to vegetarian tom yum (tomatoes, canned straw mushrooms, tofu) were uninspiring. As a result, I just filtered everything out and served it as a plain broth. Now that I've verified how good the broth is, I'm going to try again with a few solid ingredients and see what happens. Here's the recipe I came up with:
In a saucepan, add:
4 cups vegetable stock
~1/4 cup lime juice (I used 1.5 limes)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 stalks lemongrass (remove the outermost dirty layer, and score the entire length of it with a knife)
~1/3 cup chopped fresh galangal
8 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp chili oil (I used sesame chili oil, but that was a mistake. plain chili oil or canola would be better)
1 fresh cayenne pepper, minced (or other hot pepper)
garlic (maybe 2 cloves? I used a big splash of homemade garlic vodka / garlic extract)
2 pickled umeboshi plums, pitted (these provide a nice salty pungent umami flavor in place of fish sauce)
maybe 1/2 cup cilantro probably would be good, we just didn't have any

Heat the saucepan on high, and once boiling reduce to simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes until delicious. Add salt to taste if needed. Strain out the broth so you won't have to pick out the inedible bits (lime leaves and lemongrass) You could make this with enoki mushrooms, or straw mushrooms if you don't hate them, or tomatoes (I guess), or tofu.

For the spring rolls (what I call non-fried rice paper rolls, some other people call them "fresh rolls" or "summer rolls"), we started by freestyling a coconut-lime-peanut sauce (sorry, I didn't keep track of what went in but it was tasty). Next we sauteed up some homemade seitan with garlic / soy / mirin / galangal, and minced it in the food processor. We shredded some carrots, thinly sliced the fresh red peppers which we can STILL get at the farmer's market in late November (good enough to eat like an apple), and washed and chopped the arugula. We got a good factory assembly going where I softened up the rice wrappers (since I have heat-resistant hands) and passed them to Sarah to stuff and fill.

Sadly our rice was not all it could have been. We basically used the coconut rice recipe from Joy of Cooking (which is good), but instead of jasmine rice (as they recommend), or sticky rice (which is best), we used some leftover arborio rice we had from a friend who just moved, plus a bit of jasmine rice for flavor. Tragically the only mango at Whole Foods was overripe on one end, and under-ripe on the other, but we got enough mango out of it to at least give our dinner guests a good mix of mango and coconut rice. The leftover rice got dry in the fridge overnight, but was excellent with some So Delicious vegan nog on it and then microwaved until it was soft.