For the last several years, I've kept a zip-lok bag in the freezer to hold vegetable trim: the tops of leeks, onion peels, the butt ends of carrots and celery. A little bit of this and that. Oh, and the other thing. Then, when it's chock-a-block full, I toss it into the Instant Pot with some water. A pinch or two of salt. A few grinds of pepper. Just 15 minutes on High Pressure, natural release for as long as it takes you to vacuum the living room rug. Or, run an errand.
Today, I had a hankering for a big bowl of Ramen noodles. It's not exactly pleasant weather here in Reno, Nevada. The winds are howling down off the leeward side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Brrrrrr!
So, for my Japanese-inspired Ramen broth, I added a lot of mixed dried mushrooms, and several large pieces of Kombu. Oh, and some extra onion. I had some baby Bok Choy in the fresh bin of the fridge, and a half bag of Butler Soy Curls in the pantry looking all sad. "Why don't you use us?" they begged. I was surprised that I hadn't nibbled the last bits down as a crunchy snack. They're oddly satisfying just plain, out of the bag.
This is a great way to use up onion skins from the mesh bag that you store onions in. The skins add a lovely golden color to the broth.
Between the vegetable trim and the water, the Instant Pot was about three-quarters full.
When it's done cooking, simply separate the vegetables from the broth. I pick the mushrooms out since I'll want to use those in the Ramen.
You can use a basic strainer, or cheesecloth, but I have a Chinoise. That funny conical thing you see in the photo. The strainers never seem to get the smallest stuff out of a broth. Cutting and fiddling with cheesecloth is just annoying. Inevitably, some of it falls down into what you're trying to strain. Then, you have to handle a hot cheesecloth ball of vegetables as you try to squeeze the last drops of good stuff out. Fiddlesticks.
See there? A beautiful clear broth. Bam! Rinse the Chinoise and put it away. I netted two nice Mason jars of broth with very little time invested, and certainly no dollars on the vegetable trim that would have otherwise ended up in my worm composter. Yes. Worms are the world's least expensive pets. You also get free fertilizer.
Since I'd planned to make Ramen tonight, I took one of these jars and, in a pot, added: miso, soy sauce, some freshly minced ginger, some Mirin and a splash of maple syrup. Oh, you laugh! But, the maple syrup rounds out the flavors in an amazing way.
I tossed some cut up carrots, the saved mushrooms and some diced yellow summer squash into the simmering broth. Then, soaked the Soy Curls for 10 minutes, drained them and tossed them in. I left the baby Bok Choy leaves until I almost ready to serve. I like them just barely cooked through. And, of course, the Ramen noodles only take 3 minutes to cook. Drain and toss them in after you've added the Bok Choy.
Time to taste and adjust the flavors.
I have some tried and true garnishes for Ramen. Sliced green onions ( a lot!) and radishes. Oh, and sprinkle on some vegan (no Dashi) Nori Kome Furikake. It was so perfect for a cold, blustery night. We both had 'seconds'.
So, stop throwing all that beautiful vegetable trim away! That's gold! It's also the cheapest, tastiest broth that you can't buy.