If you’ve walked into a fast-casual restaurant lately and couldn’t find a menu — just lists of ingredient options printed on a sign — then you’ve stepped right into a trend. More places are following Chipotle’s DIY model, letting customers design-build their own food, and the idea seems to be going over extra well in Washington, where folks value control. Lavanya Ramanathan has the story.
Also in Food this week, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin gains a new appreciation for Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president, who liked to grill steaks by dropping the meat right into the fire. Jim tried the method with steak, corn and sweet potatoes; you can read all about it here. And finally, Bonnie S. Benwick reviews the seasonally timely “Apples of Uncommon Character,” by Rowan Jacobsen, a book featuring profiles of 123 lesser-known apple varieties and, of course, recipes.
Want to know more about DIY restaurants, grilling, apples or just about any culinary topic you can think of? It’s your lucky day, as it is every Wednesday, when we open the floor to questions during our Free Range chat. Show up at noon and settle in for an hour of great back-and-forth with the usual gang and this week’s special guests: Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger; Canning Class columnist Cathy Barrow; Treats columnist Lisa Yockelson; and apple book author Rowan Jacobsen. As a warm-up exercise, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:
I’ve started saving vegetable peelings in the freezer to eventually make a broth with, and I’m wondering exactly what is worth keeping and what I should toss. I’ve tended toward things like broccoli stalks, carrot peels and leafy celery tops. I’m less sure about onion peels, pepper stems, etc. What are good adds, and what should be left out?
A big thank-you to Food editor Joe Yonan for answering this question for me. Although he has no idea that he did; the truth is, I’m going to crib heavily from his Weeknight Vegetarian column on the same topic from just over a year ago.
But first, props to you on your new endeavor. Saving and freezing vegetable scraps is a great solution for those of us who hate to waste food but don’t have a compost pile (or own a pig). Once you have enough, it’s an easy matter to put them in a pan with water, maybe some herbs, and start cooking. And then you can put the fruits of your labors right back in the freezer if you want, labeled and dated — but of course! — and ready to use in recipes.
If you’ve bought packaged vegetable broth at the store, you know that it’s a sorry product indeed, often reminiscent of dishwater. So homemade is the way to go.
You’re on the right track with the carrot peels and celery scraps. The broccoli stems could be a little iffy; vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts are strongly flavored, so they might not be what you want if you’re hoping for a clean, balanced result. But if you’re going to be using that broth to make, say, broccoli soup, then it’s just what the doctor ordered. Onion trimmings are great, though some people don’t like the fact that the papery outer layer tends to dye the broth a darker color. Bell pepper trimmings, fine.
Here are general guidelines from Joe, included in his recipe for Scrappy Vegetable Broth: “Use mild-flavored vegetables, such as the ends and peels of carrots, onions and potatoes; the woody bottoms you snap off asparagus; the stems left behind when you strip off leaves of chard or neutral herbs such as parsley. Don’t use anything particularly dirty (such as the hairy roots of onions), and rinse the trimmings before you freeze them to avoid having to worry about grit later.”
Other suitable mild-flavored vegetable scraps: mushroom stems, leek and scallion greens, parsnip peels, celery root parings, squash peelings. Also maybe fennel and ginger trimmings, keeping in mind their distinctive flavors, so use them for something complementary. Vegetables that are no longer at the top of their game — say, a stalk of wilted celery, or a limp carrot — are fine to use provided they’re just old, not actually rotting.
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Joe gives great advice about vegetable broth in this Weeknight Vegetarian column. Check it out, then get ready to search our Recipe Finder for recipes that call for the great broth you’re going to make. Here are a few to start you off: Spicy Vegetarian Peanut Soup, Cauliflower Risotto, Slow-Cooker Salmon With Shallot and Green Beans, Paneer and Butternut Squash Kashmiri Chili.
That last one, by the way, calls for eight cups of vegetable broth. Better get started!