Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waste not

Apple, pear or peach peels. Cherry pits. Lemon rinds. Orange rinds. Chard stems.

You should not be throwing any of these away. Any time you use a lemon, orange or lime, zest it before you discard the rind. Leave the zest out for a couple of days on a paper towel, or zap it for a minute (literally, just one minute) in the microwave to dry it, and save it in an old spice jar. This will be the best zest you ever use short of fresh, and essentially free.

All vegetable discards, with the possible exception of potato peels, should be thrown in a ziplock and frozen for a quick stock.

Fruit peels can be turned into simple syrups--a couple of cups of peels, a couple of cups of water and some sugar and lemon juice makes enough syrup for a drink or two.

Here's another stick-to-your ribs Dark Days meal for a gloomy cold day, using this principal!

Potato-leek soup, with a twist
1 large or several small leeks
2 very large russets
3-4 white carrots
2 small parsnips
1 small turnip
2 T butter
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
Apple stock

Now, then, you've frozen those apple peels from all that apple sauce and pie, right? Right? Good. Because it makes a wonderful stock for soups--sweet and heavy, and able to give vegetarian soups the closest thing to an umami flavor you can get without adding soy sauce.  To make stock, put a quart or more of the peels into a quart of water and boil down to three cups (about 10-20 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Peel and roughly cut, into bite sized pieces, the root vegetables and boil until very soft.  Drain. Slice the leeks and saute in a couple tablespoons of a high-heat oil like grapeseed or olive. Add butter and the drained roots to the pan and stir over medium heat until the butter is melted. Grind the seasoning and stir it in.  Add the stock and simmer a couple hours (or less, if you're impatient). This is not a smooth soup, don't blend it please, you'll want to taste all those lovely chunks.

If you must, fry up some bacon and add it. Cool the soup with a little half-and-half (don't add it directly to the pot; if you reheat this soup with dairy in it, it will curdle).  I served this with homemade cheesy biscuits.

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