Thank you to those of you who came out to my cooking demonstration on Saturday. In the demo I discussed my method for using CSA veggie scraps to make easy homemade vegetable broth. There was a lot of interest in it and some raised a few questions about technique so I thought I would re-print my method in this week’s post. I am also featuring fennel this week, so it is a long post. Sorry about the length, but there is a lot of great information here.
CSA Tip—Make Vegetable Broth with Your Veggie Scraps and your Crockpot
We all want to eat less processed food, but supermarket broth is just so convenient to have on hand and making it from scratch can seem overwhelming. While surfing the net for veggie broth recipes, I came across an ingenious and simple way to use up vegetable scraps and make broth while I sleep! http://www.goodforgreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/crockpot-vegetable-stock.html.
Here is what I learned from this and a few other web posts…
Simply save most vegetable scraps meant for the garbage or compost pile in a large re-sealable plastic baggie stored in the freezer. Add to it as you cook. When the baggie is full, dump it in the Crockpot and add enough water to cover.
Add a few peppercorns and/or a small amount of herbs (like thyme or parsley) or dried herbs tied in cheesecloth.
If desired, add other veggies to round out the flavor (celery, carrot, onion, tomato, turnip, and mushrooms are especially good)
Turn on low and cook for 6-12 hours.
Sieve out solids (use them now for compost), let broth cool, then portion and freeze, or use within 4 days.
Non-waxy and non-bitter scraps work best and can also include onion skins (great for color), garlic and garlic skin, bell pepper scraps (avoid seeds), Kohlrabi stems, stems from greens (beware of beet and red chard stems which may color the broth), zucchini and summer squash ends, tomato ends/seeds/pulp, carrot ends and peels, asparagus or green bean ends, choi stems and greens, cauliflower leaves and cores, Kohlrabi peels and ends, mushroom stems, and broccoli stems. Sparingly use strongly flavored vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they can overpower the taste. Avoid waxy vegetables (cucumbers), bitter seeds and pits, and beet scraps. Potato skins can add a starchy element, so I tend not to use them.
Just remember to get in the habit of washing all vegetables (even the onions) before you peel or de-stem them if you are planning to use them in the broth. You don’t want any sand or dirt in your broth!!
I have been following this method with great results since I first discovered it. After years of experience with this method I have learned a few other things…
Vegetable broth can also be made in a regular pot on the stovetop and only takes 1- 1½ hours to cook.
You can add bones to the broth to make your desired bone broth. Raw or cooked bones (as in leftover cooked chicken carcasses) work equally as well. I also often add chicken necks for added flavor. For a make-your-own seafood broth, add in shrimp shells, lobster shells, and/or fish bones. For a rich beef, lamb or pork broth, roast your bones in a 350 degree oven prior to adding them to the stockpot to get a good caramelized flavor. When making bone broths, add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to the broth to help release the nutrients form the bones. Bone broths should cook for 24 hours to derive the most nutrients, particularly the healing gelatin and collagen. Gelatin and collagen offer significant benefits for gut and joint health. Don’t be surprised if your cooled bone broth broth gels up. It will “melt” upon reheating.
The longer the vegetable mix cooks, the more bitter the flavors can sometimes be depending upon the particular mix, so time it so that you turn on the Crockpot right before bed and sieve out the solids right when you get up in the morning. When making bone broth, add the veggies in the last hours of cooking to avoid bitterness (add in the last 6-8 hours for crockpot or 2-4 hours for stockpot.
Homemade vegetable broth is flavorful enough to use as a substitute for prepared chicken broth, as long as you salt it.
Uses for homemade vegetable or bone broth:
use some broth to help cook down tougher greens like kale and collards
braising vegetables like cauliflower, kohlrabi, fennel, onions, cabbage, turnips, etc…
as a base liquid for cooking grains like cous cous, farro, rice, or quinoa
in vegetable purees, like mashed potatoes or carrot puree
to make sauces
in vegetable smoothies
to sip on its own for a healing immune broth
This will easily become a habit. Try it!!
It seems fennel gets a bad rap. Some think “licorice” taste and turn their noses, but did you know that fennel seeds are the key ingredient in much-beloved Italian sausage? Also the flavor of roasted or braised fennel is very subtle yet it adds a slightly sweet, delicious touch to a dish. If you have never tried fennel or don’t like it raw, do try it cooked before you turn it down completely.
Fennel is interesting because it is related to other vegetables and herbs that you wouldn’t necessarily put together—carrots, dill, celery and parsley—as part of the Umber group. The whole plant is edible, including its feathery leaves (called fronds), its stems, and its bulb.
Fennel is considered a very nutritious food, high in important vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, vitamin C and manganese. It also contains significant amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Yet it is low in calories and relatively high in fiber. It even contains some protein. As if that was not enough, fennel contains important antioxidant properties that can potentially help prevent many chronic illnesses, including cancer and arthritis, as well as help reduce inflammation in the body.
Choose firm, white bulbs with no bruises or brown spots. Stalks and leaves should be bright green and crisp. To store, cut off bulb where the stems meet the base and place in plastic. They should last at least a week. Cover fronds and stems with moist paper towel and place in plastic. The delicate fronds will only last a couple of days.
There are many ways to enjoy fennel. Here are a few.
Fennel fronds are great used as an herb. they are terrific in salad dressings, especially citrus-based vinaigrettes or creamy ranch.
Fennel fronds also add a lot to cream cheese or sour cream dips and cream or mayonnaise-based sauces (see recipe below).
They are wonderful baked on top of fish (see recipe below) or used in poaching broth for fish, seafood or chicken. Add it to your next batch of steamed mussels or clams!!
Fennel fronds make a unique and delicious pesto. See this recipe that was given to us by one of our CSA members (click here)
Fennel Frond Dip Makes about 1 1/2 cups
– 2 cups fennel fronds , packed
– zest of one lemon
– 1 medium shallot, minced
– 1/2 cup Low fat or whole milk Greek Yogurt
– 1/2 cup sour cream, (or use Labneh)
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix in a food processor or in a blender just until fennel is minced very fine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Fennel stems can be used a lot like celery, although they can be a bit more fibrous. Stems from baby fennel will be tenderer than those from older plants. They are great added to chicken or seafood salads; vegetable soups; Italian sausage and tomato pasta sauce; pasta or grain salads; egg salad; tuna salad; or raw vegetables salads.
Fennel bulbs are very versatile and can be prepared any way from raw to grilled. The stem end, the two outermost “leaves”, and the core of the bulb can be tough so it is a good idea to remove them before proceeding. Also remove any browned or damaged sections.
Raw fennel is wonderful sliced thin in many different cold salads, especially ones with the addition of citrus. One of my favorite ways to eat fennel bulb is thinly sliced and tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and shaved Parmesan.
A traditional method of cooking fennel is braising, in which fennel wedges are oven or stove simmered in broth and/or wine with herbs. Braised fennel is great with roasted or grilled meat and fish.
Fennel bulb can also be boiled or steamed for use in purees like soups, in mashed potatoes (see recipe below), or to make sauces.
Sauté fennel to add a special quality to stir fry, or add sautéed fennel to pasta sauces or egg dishes.
Grilled fennel is divine. It is helpful to slice it with the stem end attached to keep the pieces from falling apart on the grill. Also be sure to cover the pieces with enough oil to avoid drying it out.
Finally roasting fennel with plenty of olive oil is divine. Try topping it with shaved Parmesan.
Here is a recipe using top to bottom fennel that makes for a very satisfying early summer meal.
Fennel Frond Topped Salmon with Fennel Potato Puree
Serves: 4 servings
- 3 baby fennel bulbs with leaves, or one large
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and intact
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or almonds
- ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to reach desired thickness
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, optional
- 4 5 ounce wild salmon fillets
- 2 large russet potato , peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- scant ¼ cup homemade or purchased vegetable broth
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 275℉. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (do not grease).
Place a steamer insert over a pot partially filled with water and place on medium-high heat. Chop fennel bulb into ½” pieces and place in steamer insert along with the 4 cloves of garlic. Cover and steam until fennel and garlic is very tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove fennel to a blender. Add broth and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend until smooth. Set aside. Place chopped potatoes in steamer insert, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove steamer insert from heat and allow steam to release from potatoes for a couple of minutes. Push potatoes through a potato ricer in to a bowl (or mash as you normally would). Fold fennel puree into riced potatoes. Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Add additional broth if potato mixture is too thick. Set aside. Can be reheated in microwave just before serving.
In a mini food processor, place 1 packed cup fennel fronds, 2 cloves chopped garlic, pine nuts, ⅛ -cup extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, lemon juice and Parmesan (if using). Blend until smooth. You want a thick, spreadable paste. If too thick, add more olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and more Parmesan, if desired.
Place salmon fillet portions on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each portion with several dollops of pesto and gently smooth over top of fish (you want it to be about ⅛ to ¼” thick). You may not use all the pesto, so be careful not to contaminate your pesto with anything that touches the fish so you can use the remainder of the pesto for another purpose.
Place fish in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Check temperature of fish. You want it to reach about 140-145℉. Continue baking, checking periodically, until it reaches temperature, which may take up to 10 minutes longer.
Portion hot potato puree on each of 4 plates.
Remove fish from oven. Slide a long, thin spatula under each fish fillet to release it from its skin (because you didn’t grease the pan, the fish skin will stick to the foil, making it easy to separate the flesh from the skin). Place a salmon portion on each bed of potato. Serve immediately.