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Rainbow Kitchen

All Hail the Summer Stock Pot: Leave Almost No Scrap Behind

By Allison St. Claire
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One look at your colander full of those scraps should instead bring smartly back into your head the old adage your mother or grandmother would have muttered: Waste not, want not. Those scraps have one more destination before the scrap heap.

 

As we swing into summer produce bounty season, unless you’re able to keep a compost pile it’s likely the pile of veggie scraps, shavings, peels, and assorted loose ends will start to accumulate into a towering heap of apparent, headed-into-the-garbage-bag refuse.

One look at your colander full of those scraps should instead bring smartly back into your head the old adage your mother or grandmother would have muttered: Waste not, want not. Those scraps have one more destination before the scrap heap. Or backyard chicken coop. Or compost pile – whether indoor or out.

Besides nutritious, they can be delicious. And healthy. And economical. Eco-cooking at its best!

You already know about throwing meat scraps, bones, skins and other edible parts, or crustacean shells and fish scraps, into a pot for healthy broth. Today, let’s turn our spoons to doing the same with what we commonly think of as the throw-away parts of veggies – stem to root – to do the same.

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Water Plus Scraps Plus Seasoning = Yum, Soup’s On

Start with a large freezer bag or container on hand at all times.

Then, when you pull open the refrigerator each day to see which items in the crisper drawer will work their way into one of your meals that day, also check for things that might be getting a bit too old or wilted or approaching the “I’ve completely run out of ways to serve (insert name) one more time before it goes bad” stage. Toss into bag.

Check your shelves for containers of leftovers that you might otherwise ignore until they turn into nasty chemistry experiments of transubstantiation into states of yuckiness. Toss into bag.

Next, as you scrape, peel, pull, shred, chop or otherwise prepare your daily veggies, drop the trimmings into...you know what.

Some of the most common scraps include: Onions including skins, garlic, carrots and tops, celery or celeriac, parsley, leeks, leafy greens including the ribs, mushrooms and stems, scallions, potato peelings, lettuces, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, summer squashes, corn including cobs, tomatoes (seeds and juice you may have squeezed out and skins), and peppers. Or anything else you’ve got on hand.

Also consider these, although the taste will be stronger: Asparagus, parsnips, fennel, pea pods, cilantro, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.

When your bag approaches overflowing, or you’re just ready for some great broth, take out your crockpot or big stove pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and get started. Toss in what you’ve got, add a tad of salt and pepper (more later if needed, to taste) simmer for about an hour, strain out the veggies and then bless them on their way to their final destination.

Or alternatively, when you want to keep the vegetables along with the broth, as Tamar Adler notes in An Everlasting Meal (can’t rave enough about her and this book): “Do the most sensible thing that you can in most kitchens at most times, which is put the tail ends of everything in a pot, season it well with salt, add a bit of cubed potato and some butter, and simmer it until it is all tender.

“Unless you’re looking at a tail end of vegetable that has actually changed states – solid to liquid or, worse, to gas – its yellowed parts can be cut off, and it can be added to a pot containing sauteed onion, a chopped potato per three cups of vegetables, and meat or vegetable stock or water to cover. Find a turnip that missed the week’s roasting [or your outdoor grill], asparagus bottoms, cabbage cores. As long as a soup’s ingredients are born in the same season, they will meld together perfectly in a pot and can then be blended until creamy. If there is a final cup of cooked beans or lentils that needs somewhere to go, once you’ve blended it this sort of hodgepodgey soup is the place.

 


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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