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If you made your own chicken stock or beef stock, I’m willing to bet that it is, in fact, worth the trouble to do so. As a vegetarian, I’ll happily take your word for it. And as a vegetarian who likes to cook, you might think that I’ve perfected the art of vegetable broth.
You’d be wrong.
For one thing, I almost never have vegetable scraps around—the vast majority of them are getting put to very good use. And since that’s the case, I’d have to be buying produce with the intention of turning it into stock, which just seems like a waste of perfectly good produce to me. (It will likely not come as a shock to hear that I’m not all that into juicing or otherwise drinking food instead of eating it.)
Certain specialized vegetarian stocks I can get behind: corn cob, kelp, or Parmesan—yes; but a mishmash of vegetables—no. Even on the handful of times I’ve dutifully gone ahead and reluctantly bought produce in a misguided belief that it’s something that I should do, the results have been fine. Serviceable. More than adequate to use in any recipe and definitely better than anything that comes out of a box or a can. But have I loved the broth? Wanted to pour it into a mug, cup my hands around it, and slurp big sips of it while closing my eyes to take in all of its deliciousness? No.
Which is why, with the exception of the aforementioned deviations, I’ve been making my vegetable broth the same way for nearly nine years now—with Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes. I understand the skepticism. How good can a compressed cube of broth be? Especially one that went from having charmingly retro packaging to updated packaging (below) that looks, well, still retro, but less charmingly so.
I was first introduced to Rapunzel (we're on a first-name basis now) by Heidi Swanson when she wrote about her Ultimate Chickpea Noodle Soup. And let’s be honest, if Heidi—who bakes everything from crackers to bread from scratch and makes grain bowls with ingredient lists sure to send you scurrying to a natural foods store—if she uses a packaged product as a shortcut sometimes, well, you can be sure it’s good.
And Rapunzel bouillon cubes are better than good. When you dissolve your first cube in boiling water, you, too, will be seduced by the slight sheen of fat across the surface (organic non-hydrogenated palm oil), the aroma of parsley and other organic herbs, and the taste of pure vegetable broth heaven. I would happily drink a bowl of the resulting broth straight-up—and I have done so on more than one occasion. When a broth tastes that good on its own, you can bet your final dish will be delicious, too. And with far less effort than making your own.
What is your favorite kitchen shortcut? Tell us about it in the comments!
First two photos by James Ransom, final photo by the author