Frozen-Asset Soup

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” Calvin Trillin, American writer

Looking over my recipe posts, I noticed that many are more about technique than ingredients. That is probably because I cook so much, especially during the summer, when the entire family is often home given the academic schedule. Simple and speedy is just what works.

That is most definitely what today’s “recipe” is about. It began with an aside mentioned by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich on her show. She said, in Italy, many home cooks freeze clean veggie trimmings — the stem ends of zucchini, carrot peels, potato peels and so on — for later use as veggie stock.

I experimented with the concept last winter. Every evening, I threw what most people would consider compost into a gallon bag that stayed in the freezer. When it was full, I threw the lot in a stock pot, covered it with water and simmered for about an hour. Strain out the solids, add some salt and pepper and, voila, free veggie stock that can be refrozen in measured amounts.

Then I took it a step further. Many evenings, I’m left with about a 1/2 cup of something. A sauce, some cooked veggies, some lentils. Now, instead of popping such things into a refrigerator container, hoping someone will snack them away, I throw them into a different freezer bag. When this bag is full, I simply add some veggie stock, some jarred pasta sauce and season to taste. “Free” soup.

This is most handy in the winter, when I make soup every weekend. But, there is usually a rainy day or two in even the hottest part of summer when a savory soup and a crusty loaf of bread is lovely.

One caution for either the stock or the soup: Avoid fruit and any vegetables that aren’t normally cooked; cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels spouts; and anything that contains pasta or grain. Such items will either do weird things to the end result’s texture or flavor.

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