Last year, I read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal for the first time. Subtitled Cooking with Grace and Economy, it was those final words that allured me most. Grace. Economy. Those two words have at times felt at odds with one another in our family kitchen and budget, as cooking feels neither intuitive nor economical for me, when done with quality.
Over the course of the year, I have referenced this book hundreds of times in my cooking. It is not a recipe book, although she does include a few, or an easy quick-guide to understanding food. It will not persuade you to adhere to a specific diet or to ostracize any one food group. Rather it is an instruction manual for those who find the kitchen awkward or inconsistent, and it is best to read it in the way you boil water: with simplicity and patience. The lessons, although read at once, have settled slowly into personal practice. I opt to try one new idea or skill at a time before moving on to another. That said, it is by far the most influential book I have yet read about making food, and it is always found either on my nightstand or kitchen counter splotched with food stains and penned markings. To put in perspective: if anyone ever wanted to borrow my copy, I would purchase a personal copy for them instead.
Making homemade broth from veggie scraps was the first lesson I learned from Adler. Broth is a staple in our home, especially in the colder months, used for everything from hearty stews to broth soups to making rice or nursing our immune system. A major premise in the book is that one meal should always fold into another, repurposing the scraps from one dinner into something else altogether. Although I had been making my own broth before this, I had always used fresh vegetables, purchased specifically for the purpose of diffusing their nutrients into water for broth and later disposing. While on one hand, this created a high-quality broth, it was not necessarily an economical one.
Here is my new process for a simple broth, one I highly recommend for your own home during the winter season.
- Wash all parts of the veggie before any meal preparation, this way you can throw in a few peelings and such without worry of contamination. This is a great job for little helpers.
- After any meal preparation with veggies, scoop the remaining veggie choppings or good ends into a container and store in the freezer.
- When roasting chicken or beef, throw the bones immediately into a pot after you’ve cleared the meat from it.
- Smother the bones with part or all of the freezer veggies (at least 2 cups of veggies) and then top with cold water. I usually add a bit of salt and fresh garlic (mostly because I love both).
- Heat the pot to a low boil and leave it simmering for 3-6 hours, depending on the time of day and how intense you want the flavor in the broth.
- When it’s finished simmering, allow it to cool. Pour it into a freezer bag or storage container.
Overtime, I’ve learned to pay closer attention to the sort of veggies I’m gathering, too. Some veggies and herbs are stronger than others, so those batches might be used in a heartier stew or lentil soup. For instance, this particular batch has peppers and a little cilantro and zucchini, making it a tasty base for a black bean soup. I’ll make a little note on the storage bag before placing it in the freezer. This simple practice is easy to teach my children, too. Without much effort or thought, they are learning beginning lessons in economy and quality as it pertains to their food. I hope it helps simplify some practices within your own kitchen, too.