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This Is Not A Parody: An NPR Story About Homemade Vegetable Broth

Bren Herrera's vegetable broth comes in two varieties. You can either stop at the broth, or take it one step further by pureeing the used, cooked vegetables and mixing them in.
Courtesy of Bren Herrera
Bren Herrera's vegetable broth comes in two varieties. You can either stop at the broth, or take it one step further by pureeing the used, cooked vegetables and mixing them in.

To say I was not excited about this assignment would be an understatement. An NPR piece about vegetable broth? It seems like a parody — like an NPR piece about Birkenstocks or lattes or, um, knitting. But then Bren Herrera threw open the door to her house in suburban Virginia, and suddenly a radio story seemed possible.

To say Herrera has a big personality is not an understatement either. The Cuban-born personal chef swept me into the crowded kitchen of the comfy ranch-style home where she grew up, fully prepared to explain how to distill the abundance of late summer vegetables filling our markets and backyards into one steaming bowl of the season.

"I'm going to convince you to make stock for yourself," she announced. Her ingredients were already prepped and set out in a bright orange cast-iron pot. Onion, green and red pepper, chayote — oh, just look at her recipe below.

She started by browning everything up with an entire head of unpeeled garlic, then she added a couple quarts of water and left it to simmer. Once it was done, she strained the precious liquid through a colander. And then, unexpectedly, Herrera threw the used, cooked vegetables into a blender and mixed that puree into the stock.

"Normally, somebody would tell you ... to just chuck these because you're done with them, right? You've got what you need out them," she said of the mushy veggies. "But no, no, no. Not in my kitchen. We're going to use all of that."

After the Cuban Revolution, Herrera's parents lived on the ration system known as Libreta de Abastecimiento.

"And so they had to be very conservative with how they used food," Herrera explained. "They had the Libretaand so they only got a certain amount of vegetables per month, if that."

I conceded that Herrera's stock, which wastes nothing, was uncommonly delicious. But it still seemed like way more work than just buying a container off the shelf in a grocery store.

"Yeah, but guess what?" she retorted good-naturedly. "This is yours. It's craft."

A stock that can be tailored to whatever's freshest, cheapest and most available. I used what we made as the basis for this tomato and corn risotto (adjusting the risotto seasoning away from basil and towards parsley, so as not to clash with the stock's Cuban flavors). Herrera suggests freezing it, to make your vegetable soup sing of summer in the cold fall months ahead.

Repurposed, No Waste Vegetable Stock


7 stalks celery, with leaves
4 whole tomatoes on vine, halved
4 medium carrots, big chunks
1 green pepper, big chunks
1 red bell pepper, big chunks
1 yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 chayote, skin on
2 large oregano leaves (Herrera uses a variety she grows called witch oregano)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 bunch cilantro
1 packet of Sazón Goya
Sea salt to taste
5 cups water


In large, cast-iron pot, heat 1/8 cup olive or canola oil. Add all vegetables. Cook vegetables for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add 4 cups cold water and stir. Add dry herbs, spices and cilantro. Stir well and cover pot. Lower heat and simmer for 90 minutes.

Drain stock through colander and reserve cooked vegetables for later use. Use stock right away or store in freezer.

Chef's notes: For more flavor, add cooked vegetables from original stock and pulse until well-blended. This will add more depth and great flavor to soups, chilis, etc.

Vegetable Stock Purée


3 cups vegetable stock (preferably scratch-made)
6 stalks celery, with leaves
4 medium carrots, big chunks
2 whole tomatoes on vine, halved
1 green pepper, seeded
1 chayote, peeled and cubed
1 yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
sea salt to taste or Sazón Goya


In high power food processor, add raw celery, carrots, tomato, 1 cup vegetable stock and dry seasonings. Process on high for one minute until carrots are fully broken down. Room permitting, add more vegetables and liquid and process again for an additional minute. Transfer to mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, adding stock as necessary until all vegetables are fully liquefied. Add first batch of mixture with second batch and process again until all is well-blended. Depending on the size and power of your processor, you may have to do this in two or four steps.

*Chef's notes: For a thinner purée with even more flavor, add 1 cup of cooked vegetables from the original stock and pulse until well-blended.

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Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.