Making Vegetable Stock From Kitchen Scraps

Vegetable Stock Using Kitchen Scraps

It’s just a guess, but I’m betting that vegetable consumption across the U.S. is at an all-time high.

When you eat lots of veggies, you end up with lots of veggie scraps. I always strive to reduce food waste in my kitchen, so instead of throwing those scraps in the garbage, I use them to make delicious homemade vegetable stock.

I first started making stock in culinary school. My school processed hundreds of pounds of veggies a day, which, in turn, created mountains of scraps. There was always an industrial-sized batch of stock in the works. It was simple to take what I learned in school and adapt it for home use. Now, I bring the wisdom to you.

Making Vegetable Soup Stock

How to Save Vegetable Scraps for Stock

Choose a plastic bag or plastic container to be your designated scrap saving place. I happened to have an extra pop-top container laying around, so I put that to use. Each night, after cooking, I add scraps to the container, then store it in the freezer. Keep putting scraps in the same container until it’s full, then use the whole mess to create your vegetable stock.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Scraps to Use in Stock

There are SO many scraps that make for great stock. Here are the ones that turn up most frequently in my household:

  • Outer layers of onions—While I don’t save onion skins (they retain quite a bit of dirt), I do save the outer layers of onion flesh for stock. Hang on to those layers that are slightly too tough to eat, but still have some moisture and onion flavor.
  • Dark green parts of leeks— Have you ever noticed that 99% of leek recipes call for “the white and light green parts only”? Ummm hello… leeks are expensive! Throwing away half of each stalk (the dark green part) breaks my heart. Into the stock bin they go!
  • Corn cobs—Not the ones that people have gnawed on at a barbecue. Just the ones you’ve cut the kernels off of for soup.
  • Mushroom stems—Making a recipe that calls for just the mushroom caps (like stuffed mushrooms)? The stems have SO much flavor – put them in the stock bin.
  • Celery and carrot leaves—These aren’t really part of my regular diet, so they go right into the stock bin.
  • Veggie peels—This one is a judgement call. If a carrot or a parsnip has REALLY dirty skin, and looks musty even after a good scrub, I won’t save the peels, as they’ll give the stock a muddy flavor. But if the peels are pretty clean, game on.
  • Herb stems—Parsley, in particular, has plenty of goodness in its stems. They’re a bit woody for using in a delicate dinner, but they’re perfect for stock.

What Not to Use for Making Vegetable Stock

While most everything is fair game, there are a few things that aren’t optimal for stock.

  • Moldy or rotten vegetables. Vegetables that are just a little bit past their prime (such as bendy celery) are fine, but if anything is REALLY old and looks terrible, it’s best just to introduce it to the garbage can or compost bin.
  • Anything with a very strong, specific flavor (or color)—Cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, and beets are a few examples.

Steps on How to Make a Vegetable Stock

Here’s the big secret: if you throw everything into a pot, and don’t measure anything, it will probably turn out fine. Who has time for measuring cups? Here are the very loose instructions.

  • Grab a big pot.
  • The base of a good vegetable stock is carrot, celery and onion, so make sure these three ingredients are well represented, even if you have to add a few whole (chopped) vegetables to your scrap mix.
  • Drop in all your precious scraps.
  • Add some herbs – A few sprigs of parsley and thyme work well. Also, throw in a couple of bay leaves.
  • Whole black peppercorns – Exactly 12. No, just kidding. A small handful is sufficient.
  • Garlic cloves – If you want. Don’t even bother chopping them. Just smash ’em and throw ’em in.
  • Pour cold water over everything until water just barely covers the veggies.
  • Simmer uncovered, over medium heat, at least 1 hour, but preferably 2.
  • Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer; discard solids.
  • Use stock immediately for soup, poaching fish, risotto, or any vegetarian dish. Or, refrigerate stock up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Feeling inspired? Put your new stock to use in homemade chicken soup.

All About Brodo Bone Broth

When Brodo opened its first location in Manhattan in 2014, it caused a frenzy. At the time it was novel to walk around with a to-go cup filled with savory bone broth, but New Yorkers couldn’t get enough. This tiny window-service restaurant was the brain child of Marco Canora.

Canora was already the executive chef at Hearth in the East Village. Brodo came about as a resourceful way to use the takeout window attached to the side of his already popular restaurant. At the time, he had no way to now it would spawn an empire. Today, Marco Canora’s rich and hearty broth is available across the nation, including in Blue Apron boxes.

Brodo may have been revolutionary, but the basic principle of bone broth is ancient. Here’s what all the buzz is about: 

What is Bone Broth? 

Bordo bone broth

Brodo is made with water, roasted bones from beef, chicken, or pork, and aromatic flavorings. Although these may sound like the same basic ingredients that make up traditional stock, very few commercial broths are actually made with roasted bones. Roasting the bones and taking the time to simmer them is what allows the collagen and other nutrients in the bones to release. This process is what is what transforms a thin stock into a hearty bone broth. 

The Health Benefits of Bone Broth

The longer that water simmers with bones, the more collagen it can extract. Collagen supports skin and nail health, is packed with protein, and also adds a luscious texture that makes this healthy elixir feel indulgent. 

Brodo’s bone broth is delicious in its own right, let’s not forget it started out as a beverage, but it can also add rich flavor to sauces, gravies, and stews. In Blue Apron boxes you’ll find it being used as a braising liquid in our braised chicken and smashed potatoes, and to deglaze pans for in our gnocchi with summer vegetables.

Make Chicken Noodle Soup with Whatever You Have

Chef Lili Dagan never lets a missing ingredient slow her down. Here’s how she makes classic noodle chicken soup with whatever she has on hand.

Chicken noodle soup
A bowl of pure comfort

I’m a recipe riffer. Most of the time, I have every intention of cooking a recipe as written, but then I find I’m missing parsley, or there’s a bunch of carrots in the fridge about to go bad, or the crushing existential dread has generally derailed my original plans. All of a sudden, I’m riffing. It just happens.

Last week, I ordered a farm box from a local CSA, and I impulsively tacked whole chicken on to my order. Who doesn’t need a whole chicken? Like many these days, I’ve been craving classic comfort foods. When I saw thunder in the forecast, I decided chicken soup was the move. Luckily, the Blue Apron cookbook has a recipe that I love. 

Problems arose right away. The first step of this particular recipe is to poach your chicken in five quarts of chicken stock along with some aromatics and herbs. When I went to collect my ingredients, I realized that I didn’t have the leeks that the recipe called for. I did, however, have some huge scallions. I also only had three quarts of stock, and vegetable stock at that. I decided I could stretch it with some water. That’s how riffing starts.

I poached my chicken in the vegetable stock, along with the few sprigs of yellowing parsley and chives that I had on hand. To make up for my lackluster aromatics,  I added a pinch of Blue Apron Italian seasoning. While that simmered away, I prepped my soup vegetables: some carrots from my farm box, some almost-past-its-prime celery, and a rutabaga. I found half an onion leftover from making tortilla española, and tossed that in as well. It’s like freestyle jazz. 

After an hour of low simmering, I pulled out the chicken, let it cool, and picked the meat off the bones. I strained the broth through a mesh sieve, and added it back in the pot with the prepped vegetables. That all simmers for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are a pleasing texture. There’s room for interpretation here too, I like my vegetables to still have a little bite to them. Some members of my family, judging by the soup they serve as Passover, prefer their vegetables very soft. Do what feels good for you. A few minutes before the vegetables are done, add the chicken meat back in. 

For this meal, I cooked the noodles separately. I wasn’t planning on serving the soup all at once, and cooking the noodles separately extends their shelf life. 

This, my friends, is where I am going to give you the trick for the most delightful chicken noodle soup. Place the cooked noodles in the bottom of your soup bowl. While they are still hot, use a vegetable peeler to layer them with thick strips of parmesan cheese. This guarantees ribbons of cheese will swim through your soup like salty comet tails. It’s positively delightful.

chicken noodle soup with cheese
A cheesy chef tip

Top your noodles with your hot soup, whatever herbs you have leftover, and more cheese (if you want). Some hot sauce? You do you! Eat with whatever spoon sparks the most joy. For me, it’s a dumpling spoon. But if you don’t have one, riff it.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken and Broth

  • 1 whole chicken (31⁄2 to 4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 quarts chicken stock
  • 4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 leeks, coarsely chopped and cleaned 
  • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs thyme

Soup

  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced and cleaned 
  • 12 ounces dried egg noodles
  • 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dill

1. Temper the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season the inside and outside with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Make the broth. In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the stock to a simmer on high. Add the carrots, leeks, celery, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, 6 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add the chicken, breast side down, making sure that the chicken is mostly submerged in stock and resting on top of the vegetables. Heat until just simmering. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 55 to 65 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 180°F. Use tongs to carefully transfer the chicken to a large bowl to cool slightly.

3. Strain the broth and shred the chicken. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into another large pot; discard the vegetables. Season the broth with salt. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Remove and discard the skin. Use two forks or your fingers to shred the meat or use a knife to cut into bite-size pieces.

4. Cook the vegetables and noodles. Add the carrots, celery, and leeks to the soup and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium at a simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add the noodles and cook according to the time on the package until tender. 

5. Finish and serve the soup. Add the shredded chicken and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through and well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and dill. Divide the soup between bowls. Serve with the bread, if desired.

Finished chicken noodle soup
Enjoy

 

Five Ways to Make Chili for Game Day

Chili with Tortilla Chips

You don’t need anything more than a bowl and spoon to enjoy your chili. But, since it’s Super Bowl weekend, why not use your chili to up the ante on a handful of other indulgent snacks? Here are five ways to eat your chili this game day!

On Spaghetti

Now that’s Cincinnati style. Garnish with minced red onions.

FriesOn French Fries

Bake the fries to save time and oil.

Baked PotatoesOn Baked Potatoes

We’ve already talked about this.

Tortilla Chips

On Tortilla Chips (make them homemade!)

Call them nachos. Then top with guac.

Sloppy Joe BunsSloppy Joe-Style

Chili: now between the bun.

Here’s How: Serve Any Soup in a Bread Bowl

We’ve already showed you how to build your soup from a delicious bowl to a flavor explosion. Today, we look at how to transform your bowl from one made of ceramic or glass to one that’s edible. A bread bowl.

We use our bread bowls for this French Onion Soup. The bread works so well with caramelized onions and melted cheese, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an incredible (edible!) container for Butternut-Sausage Soup or Minestrone

After we’ve brewed the soup, we take two sourdough bread boules, cut off the tops, and hollow them out. If your bread isn’t straight-from-the-oven fresh, you can re-crisp the hollowed-out boules in the oven for a few minutes.

More! VIDEO: Here’s How to Re-Crisp Your Bread

We fill them with soup. And, in the case of French Onion Soup, we top with cheese and pop them in the oven. (But you can skip this step if you’re not having a cheese-filled dinner.)

Set your bread bowl on a plate or in a shallow bowl, and eat the soup with a spoon and the delicious, flavor-filled bread with your hands!

 

Home Chef: Season Your Soup Like You Mean It

Every month, Lori Yates from Foxes Love Lemons takes a lesson she learned in culinary school, while working with some of the country’s best chefs, and takes it into the home kitchen, where her tips will help make you a faster, better, and more confident cook. Welcome to her column, Home Chef

In one of the final classes of my culinary school curriculum, we learned how to work the various stations in our student-run kitchen. Groups of three students would take their turns on the sauté, grill, and salad stations.

But one station was tucked away in the corner, with little contact to the outside world. The Soup Station. While other groups scurried to prep the 15 – 20 items needed for that day’s dish, this station had only one task: make a great pot of soup. Why did it take four hours for three students to make one pot of soup? Because it wasn’t about the soup. It was about the seasoning.

Read more: Blue Apron’s Soup Cookbook

There’s a myth that the reason restaurant food tastes so good is because it’s so well salted. But there are many ways to season food other than just with salt. In fact, my chef instructors taught us that salt isn’t always the first thing to reach for. That’s great news for anyone looking for a way to make healthy dishes taste great without going overboard on sodium. Since hearty soups make for great food resolution eating, I thought I’d share these tips.

The culinary school’s Soup Station meant lots of one-one-one time with the chef instructors, tasting and re-tasting the soup of the day, and adjusting it until it was perfect. We were instructed to start with spice, then move on to salt, then finish with acid (wine, then vinegar, then lemon juice) We learned this technique using the blank canvas of basic broth soups, but of course they’ll apply to ramen or tortilla soup, too.

Let’s get started. Taste your almost-finished dish. Is it perfect? If so, you really lucked out. That never happens for me.

If you get the feeling that “something is missing,” start with spice. If your dish already includes some sort of spice (like cayenne, black or white pepper, paprika, etc.), it’s natural to add an extra dash of that to try to perk things up. Or, now might be the time to add some pepper for the first time, if it’s appropriate for the flavors of your meal. Take it slow, and add just a little bit at a time until you can taste a difference. You don’t want to make your dish spicy, you just want to jazz up the flavor a little bit. Sometimes, an extra dash is all you need.

If you’ve added a few more sprinkles of spice, and you’re still not totally loving it, the next step is salt. Salt is known as a flavorant – something that enhances the flavor of food, rather than contributing its own. Because salt is one of the five primary tastes the human tongue can detect, a dish without any trace of salt will almost always seem flat. The coarse texture of kosher salt makes it a cook’s best friend – it’s easy to grab a pinch to stir into your dish.

Watch: Our Video on Seasoning to Taste

After you’ve gradually added a few pinches of salt, make sure you have a drink of water to cleanse your palate, and then re-taste. Would you describe your dish as bright and well-rounded? Does one bite make you want to keep eating ten more bites? If the answer is no, you still have work to do.

The final line of defense against a bland dinner is acid. Let’s start with wine, a mild acid. Because I don’t always want to open a whole bottle of wine for just a splash, I like to keep those little one-serving bottles of wine on hand – both dry red and dry white varieties. Think about the dish you’re making, and what type of wine you would like to drink with it – that’s the type of wine you’ll want to season with. For chicken noodle soup, I like to add a splash of white wine. Beef and barley soup would be complemented by red wine.

If you don’t keep wine on hand, or you added it and it didn’t quite cut it, move on to vinegar. Here too, I like to reach for red wine and white wine varieties of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is also very versatile. A little bit of vinegar goes a long way, so add a teaspoon of vinegar at a time, and taste after each spoonful. You should be able to taste your dish perking right up. The flavors of each ingredient will start to pop, and the brightness will make your dish have that “craveable” nature every cook strives for.

If you’ve tried spice, salt, wine and vinegar, and your dish STILL tastes dull, that’s a rough day in the kitchen. Don’t despair – yet. Grab a lemon (or a lime, if the flavor works with your meal). Squeeze some juice into your dish and cross your fingers. I’m a firm believer that a little lemon juice can improve ANY dish. After all this hard work, you should be looking at a pretty great pot of soup now.

I know this process sounds like it takes about an hour. I promise it doesn’t. When you’re first getting started learning about seasoning, it can take about ten minutes at the end of your cooking time to make adjustments and get everything tasting great. But once you learn the basics, these rules become second nature, and can be done in less than a minute.

Always keep your seasonings nearby. That’s the sign of a true home chef.

Lori Yates is a Detroit-area food writer, photographer and recipe developer. She is the author of Foxes Love Lemons, where she posts special yet simple original recipes and restaurant reviews. Her mission is to encourage people to enjoy the act of cooking at home. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s How: Build a Great Soup

It’s soup season! Grab your tureens and your ladles, and let’s start stewing up pots of delicious, healthful, and vegetable-laden soups. While we’ve sent out a whole range of soups, from brothy chicken noodle to vegetarian tortilla soup to creamy chowdertoday we wanted to share a few steps so that you can build up a pretty good soup no matter what ingredients you have on hand.

At their best, soups are a curated hodgepodge of ingredients, all intended to turn water into a nourishing meal. By sautéing meats and aromatics, using tasty chicken or vegetable brown, and adding in plenty of herbs and vegetables, you’ll brew your stew into the centerpiece of the meal.

To show you how this whole soup thing works, we’ll take you through our Lamb Sausage & Butternut Soup with Barley and SpinachHere’s how to build a great soup.

1. Do your mise en place.

It’s the one thing that will always make you a better cook, allowing you to pay attention into what’s in the pot, instead of frantically chopping squash while your onions unexpectedly burn.

2. Brown your meat.

Pick small amounts of tasty meat, preferably something that has a high fat content, so you start with a really tasty base. We like frying a few strips of bacon when we make lentil soupand we love how spiced lamb sausage turns our butternut soup into something unique. If you’re making a vegetarian soup, obviously skip this step!

3. Add aromatics and hard vegetables.

Early on in the soup-making process, you’ll want to throw in a whole chopped onion, a decent amount of garlic, and perhaps some ginger if you’re making an Asian-inflected soup like udon. Sauté the vegetables in the fat leftover from the meat. As the vegetables soften, they’ll start to impart flavor to your growing pot of soup. We also add harder vegetables, like carrots, squash, and celery to the soup at this point.

4. Deglaze and simmer.

Once the vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, we pour in stock or water (stock will give your final soup more flavor). As the stock comes to a boil, we scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure to release all the sucs–the browned meat and vegetables stuck to the bottom, which add tons of flavor. Soups should usually simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Add softer vegetables.

When the soup is more or less done – any veggies and grains are soft, and the whole soup is richly flavored, it’s time to add softer vegetables, like spinach or other greens, which cook really quickly. Simply plunge the vegetables into the soup and cook for a few more minutes, until wilted. Once those are cooked, you’ll want to taste for seasoning, adding more salt as necessary.

4. Garnish.

You’re ready to eat! But before you do, consider livening up your pot of stew with some fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of vinegar, some really good  olive oil, or grated cheese (what you choose will depend on what kind of soup you made). Adding something fresh at the end helps give the earthy soup an extra layer of interest, texture, and flavor. Now, grab a spoon and dive in!

Why Hot Soup Makes for a Cool Summer

how to eat hot soup in summer

In the summer heat, we think we crave cold swims, iced coffee, and cool gazpacho all the time. While those things are wonderful, they’re not the whole story. We still love hot showers, fresh-brewed coffee, and steaming soup in the summer. We’re here to make a case for including summer soup in your meal plan.

First, the proof: in some of the hottest climates in the world, the local food is both hot (temperature) and hot (highly spicy). In Thailand, a traditional diet features spicy curries, in India there’s daily hot tea, and in Fiji the locals love spicy coconut stews. It’s time to trust the local wisdom. These steamy stews and teas can actually cool the eater down.

Why? Though it’s counter-intuitive, when you eat hot food, your body notices. Receptors relay the hotness to the brain, and your brain starts to cool you down. The same response occurs for spicy hot as for temperature hot, one reason we added birdseye chiles to our cool cucumber salad. The body’s “cooling system” may make you sweat as you eat, but by the time you’re finished, you’ll be cool as a cucumber.

The eating-hot-food-in-summer phenomenon happens in the U.S. too. New England is home to infamously muggy summers. It’s also where the epitome of summer soups was born–Corn Chowder

hot soup in the summer

Good sweet corn makes this soup shine, and corn is best in July and August. That makes summer the perfect time to cook up this hot, vegetable-laden bowl. Potatoes and a dash of cream add richness and thickness to the delicious broth. Radishes and micro celery bring even more summer spirit.

So open the windows, turn on the stove, and get ready to heat up–and then cool down–with our deliciously seasonal, and unabashedly hot Summer Corn & Vegetable Chowder.