a Vegetable Broth
The simplest way to make a flavorful broth is to use vegetable scraps.
Some people use a large zip lock bag or a plastic container with a lid to store the scraps in the refrigerator, until they are ready to be used.
"Scraps" are potato peels, carrot tops and shavings, onion peels, broccoli stems, celery tops and strings, bell pepper tops, tough asparagus ends, green bean ends, the central core of a cabbage. These are all things most of us just throw away.
This is a little bit "trial and error," but it can make a wonderful difference in our reflective food preparation. Using about twice as much water as vegetables, we add a bit of salt, and bring them to a boil. Then we turn the heat down to let the vegetable pieces simmer.
After the vegetables have become very soft - about an hour - scoop out the vegetables and carefully pour the broth through a strainer. When cooled, the broth can be saved, even frozen in various sized cartons.
Uses for Vegetable Broth
It is so easy to use the broth as a base for a number of wonderful, quick, healthy soups. Just add some cooked rice or pasta or egg noodles, perhaps a tablespoon of tomato paste, thinly sliced and sautéed onions, some frozen vegetables or crushed tomatoes. Red beans or black beans that have been soaked overnight, or canned beans can be washed and rinsed and added to the broth. Barley or lentils can add another layer of flavor. A partially beaten egg can be drizzled into the boiling broth, for an egg drop soup. The soup can be further seasoned, for a variety of flavors, with garlic powder or grated ginger or crushed red pepper. Try any of these ingredients, or in various combinations, to add "substance" to our soup.
A wonderful variety of meals can be made with a white sauce base that is made from a vegetable broth. Try this basic recipe and see how easy it is, and how it can be used as the basis for many meals. In a 10-12 inch frying pan, add about a quarter cup of vegetable oil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour on top of the oil. Stir the flour into the oil until it disappears, just clouding the oil. Now turn the heat on, starting at low heat, and slowly pour in 2 cups of vegetable broth. (One cup of broth and one cup of milk will make a very creamy sauce.) The heat may be raised to medium. As the sauce starts to thicken, it may be necessary to add more broth or water and to lower the heat. Keep stirring until sauce is the right consistency - like gravy. Seasonings to taste may be added now. For a brown gravy, browning liquid may be added.
Some examples: Add Parmesan cheese to the sauce and serve over egg noodles. Add canned clams or tuna or imitation crab, with juice, and mushrooms, and serve over linguini. Stir grated cheddar cheese into the sauce and pour over elbow macaroni, and briefly bake, for home made macaroni and cheese. Pour the sauce over thinly sliced raw potatoes - cover and bake for an hour, with or without a variety of cheeses or thinly sliced onions or garlic or a topping of bread crumbs. Add sliced hard boiled eggs to the sauce and serve over toast.
There is something very special about starting with "scraps." It is not until we really save and use what we would normally throw away, that we realize what we really throw away.
Praying in Solidarity
It is remarkable what a powerful grace can come from choosing to save potato and onion peels. Saving these and other vegetable scraps can open up a place of deep reflection upon and solidarity with those in this world who have so much less than we do.
All it takes is reflection and prayer.
Reflection can take us as deeply as we want to go. It may be that in reading all this I realize that I don't have or take the time to prepare food at all. It may be that I reflect upon how the resources I have so completely separate me from the experience of the truly poor of the world that I need something like this to really choose to open my heart in a new way. Perhaps, as I peel the potatoes or break the ends of the fresh string beans I will try to picture myself side-by-side with someone preparing food for her/his family. In many parts of the world, it is the "scraps" that go to feed the chickens or goats that might be the only source of eggs or milk for the family. In this reflection, I can try to imagine what she is thinking about, as she prepares her meal. Is she praying? What does she say to the Lord? Can I imagine "listening in" on her faith and trust in God?
With this kind of reflection, prayer becomes so easy. I can ask the Lord to give me some experience of love for this person I'm imagining. I can ask for faith and trust. I can express deep gratitude for what I have, and deep sorrow for what I waste or take for granted. I can ask for many graces for my family or friends who will eat this meal. And, I can savor the gift that is being offered me, in the scraps I would have ordinarily thrown away.
And, when we pray our
grace before meals, we can give thanks and praise to God for the blessings
of this food that not only nourishes us in such a delicious, simple, healthy
way, but also for the gifted solidarity with the poor that we experience.