Thursday, April 17, 2014

"What could be bad" Food Post 1

היום שלשים ימים בעמר
Today is three days of the omer
תפארת שבחסד
A day of compassion in a week of loving kindness

So many bloggers go through some version of a food phase in their writing series--recipe based, restaurant based, or a combination of the two. Often there's an overlay of health or decadence; regionally centered or a global journey. I am no exception to this rule.

I consider myself a good, rustic cook. My techniques may not be polished, but for the most part I get the taste right. I often work on the theory learned from my mother--"What could be bad?" While this has lead to the occasional odd pairing that doesn't work, it's held me in pretty good stead. I love cookbooks, but I've never felt restrained by recipes, often using them for a starting off point for my own creations--for better or worse :)

I do try to keep the majority of the ingredients that I buy natural and seasonal. I try to keep most processed foods off of my shopping list. I do like to use jarred tomato sauces and I have a weakness for mayonnaise (I grew up with Hellman's--Best Foods for the West Coasters--but I have transferred my allegiance to Trader's Joes, with no additives or sugar.) The amount of sodium in so many packaged foods--even those marked "natural"-- seems really high without getting the benefit of a nice, salty taste.

So learning how easy it is to make vegetable broth and then store it for use in all sorts of dishes was transforming for me. Kudos go to my friend Dorene Hyman for teaching this to me and now I will share this with you.

Now, this assumes that you are someone who cooks, since the basis for the broth is produce that you are using to make other dishes. While you cook, take all the ends and bits that you are not using--stems, roots, peels and instead of putting them in the garbage or compost, throw them all in a pot. Onions, garlic, chard stalks, carrot ends, ginger peel, cilantro stems, squash skins, mushroom stems--there's very little you can't use.

Fill the pot with water and when your prep time is done, you can start the broth. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat underneath to simmer, cover and cook for about an hour or so--basically just keep it there during your meal. Alternately, you can put all the bits in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator if you'd like to make the broth later in the week.

Cool the mixture before you strain the broth to store it for later use. I have found that it's fine to leave the broth covered on the stove and package it the next day in containers of your preference. I like to make a couple of trays of vegetable broth ice cubes. Once they're frozen I pop them all in a bag for easy storage. Lately I've also been using a silicone muffin pan. The bigger size is more in keeping with the amount I'm likely to use. But another advantage of this is that I don't have to open a big container when I'm just using a cup or less.

You can't get much more simple than that. But what a difference it can make in your cooking. When making curries or stews, you get to use a tasty liquid without adding any extra salt. The cubes are great for deglazing a pan or adding a flavor to sautéed greens. And it's easy enough to always have around to use whenever you jump into a creative cook mode, this recipe supports all those "What could be bad" moments.

Feel free to share any tips or cooking ideas in the comments. And look for more food recipes and tips mingled among the posts for the next 46 days.

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