There is magic in making broth. With a wave of time's wand, a humble handful of vegetables and seasonings transform plain water into a nourishing elixir, building the foundation for a light, satisfying soup. Enhance that broth with spicy fresh ginger, citrusy lemon peel, and savory shiitake stems to get yourself over the midweek hump. Simmer the broth all day to extract the flavor and nuance from the vegetables. Stir in silky cubes of tofu, chopped bok choy, and nutty soba noodles just before serving for a soup that is both energizing and restorative.
Build a Better Broth in the Slow Cooker
A slow cooker's ability to hold a steady simmer makes it ideal for brewing broth, a gift since the fact is that no boxed vegetable broth holds a candle to the homemade variety. Boxed broths often lean too heavily on the carrot, lack depth, and can have a distinctly metallic aftertaste. Use the boxed stuff when a flavorful liquid needs only to play a background role. But when the flavors are light, fresh, and delicate, and when you really want the broth to shine, it is best to start with a few fresh ingredients.
Build the broth in the morning and cook low and slow for the duration of the day. When your day's to-do list is complete, open the lid and lift out the spent vegetables with a slotted spoon.
Slicing and portioning mushroom tops, tofu, and soba noodles when assembling my broth means that when the broth is ready, so am I with no additional chopping or measuring. The fragrance of the warm gingery soup perfumes the kitchen, rejuvenating you after a long day. The light broth and barely cooked bok choy and shiitake give the illusion of a light, refreshing soup. But it is a complete and satisfying meal, thanks to the addition of silky tofu and hearty soba noodles. Leave them off if you want something light and soothing. Serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the soup to wake up the earthy flavors and amplify the brightness of the ginger broth.
You can even try making this soup overnight and waking up to a warm and savory cup of this gingery broth for breakfast.
Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes Everyone Should Know
The slow cooker is a handy tool for every kind of kitchen — including ones where vegetable-driven, plant-powered, meat-free food is the order of the day. In this series we're sharing five essential vegetarian soups to make in the slow cooker.
We'll show you how to come home to a simmering pot of lentils, a better-than-the-box vegetable broth, a luxurious cream of mushroom soup, a brothy vegetable soup for chilly nights, and a classic chili that's perfect for busy weeknights or game day.
Gingery Tofu Slow Cooker Soup
For the ginger broth:
3 1/2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, scrubbed
1 medium lemon
8 cups (2 quarts) water
1 medium carrot, cut crosswise into 3 pieces
1 (1-inch) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 medium scallions, cut crosswise into 3 pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
For the soup:
3 1/2 ounces baby bok choy, sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces dry soba noodles
Options for serving: thinly sliced scallions, fresh cilantro leaves
Make the broth: Trim the stems from the mushrooms, then place the stems in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. Slice the mushroom tops 1/4-inch thick and refrigerate. Peel the lemon with vegetable peeler. Use a sharp knife to remove any bitter white pith from the yellow peel. Add the lemon peel to the slow cooker. Slice the lemon into wedges and refrigerate.
Add the water, carrot, ginger, scallions, salt, and turmeric to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 6 to 7 hours. Use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the cooked vegetables.
Add the reserved shiitake tops and bok choy to the broth. Cover and cook on LOW until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tofu and soba noodles and stir gently to combine. Cover and cook on LOW until the tofu is warmed and the noodles are tender, about 3 minutes. Serve with thinly sliced scallions, cilantro, and the reserved lemon wedges.
Gluten free: To make this soup gluten free, make sure the soba noodles are made only from 100% buckwheat and contain no wheat flour.
Make ahead: Once the noodles are added, this soup is best served immediately. However, the broth can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Bring back to a simmer on the stovetop before adding the mushrooms and bok choy and finishing the soup.