Tag Archives: vegetable stock

Stocking Up!

During the fall and winter there is nothing I enjoy more than a steaming bowl of soup. Commercial stocks are inexpensive, plentiful and convenient, but they will never replace homemade. I typically make 36 quarts of chicken, and 24 quarts of vegetable stock each season, and freeze it for future use. Not only does the house smell terrific while it simmers, it is the foundation for all sorts of delicious meals that include soups, stews and risotto. I find that vegetable stock in particular, benefits from a little love and attention to the ingredients.

If you roast or brown the vegetables before you assemble the stock, the caramelization improves the flavor profile. Adding dried porcini mushrooms and tomato paste will impart a savory or umami element that deepens the end result. Unlike chicken stock which is simmered up to 24 hours, vegetable stock is simmered no longer than 90 minutes. The addition of herbs and onion skins add flavor and color to the stock.

VEGETABLE STOCK

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion (save the skins)
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 3 cups chopped carrot
  • 2 cups chopped parsnip
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (can leave skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 large handfuls spinach

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rehydrate dried mushrooms. Place the dried mushrooms in a 4 cup glass Pyrex measuring cup and pour 4 cups boiling water over them. Set aside.
  2. Brown the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips and fennel. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring only occasionally. Be patient with the browning of the vegetables, as they have a high moisture content. It may take 10-15 minutes or longer to brown them.
  3. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color.
  4. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low. After 45 minutes add spinach. Continue to simmer for a total of 90 minutes.
  5. Strain the stock with a basket skimmer or slotted spoon, removing all the big pieces of vegetables and mushroom. Discard or compost. Set up a large bowl with a wire mesh strainer in it. Line strainer with a layer of cheesecloth. Using a ladle or 2 cup measuring cup, pour stock through strainer. When the liquid slows down, you may have to change the cheesecloth.
  6. Pour into jars, or 1 quart plastic deli containers and chill or freeze. Make sure you leave 1 1/2 inches of headspace if freezing.

Yields: 4-5 quarts

“The secret to change, is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates

A Leg Up On Legumes

When it comes to food that is inexpensive, versatile, nutrient rich and a pantry staple, nothing can beat beans and legumes. They can be a base for anything from bowls, to entrees, to salads and soups. The two I use the most are chickpeas and lentils. They are cousins and their history dates back to 6000 B.C. Both chickpeas and lentils are still a staple in the Middle Eastern and Indian diets, and are featured in many cuisines throughout the world. They are considered a superfood as they are rich in protein, and are often used as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets. If paired with brown rice or a whole grain they are a complete protein.

Lentils come in a variety of colors, such as brown, green (lentils du Puy), gold, red and even black. Used in French bistro cuisine, they became a favored ingredient. Red lentils cook the fastest and break down quickly, while brown are typically used for soups. Green du Puy hold their shape and are favored for salads. Before using lentils, it is prudent to sort through them for unwanted pebbles or debris. I simply pour them onto a sheet pan and look them over, then transfer them to a wire colander and give them a rinse. The following recipe is beautifully earthy and comes together quickly, making it perfect for a week night. I usually make a large batch, since it freezes well. That way I can thaw a quart and have it on the table without much notice.

COUNTRY LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound bag of brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (homemade if possible) or water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend
  • 1 15.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glenn)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add celery, carrots and onions to pot and sauté until onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and mix.
  2. Next add the rinsed lentils, and mix thoroughly. Add the vegetable stock or water and mix again. Bring to a boil, then cover slightly ajar and simmer on low for 40-50 minutes. Taste lentils to seen if they are soft. If not continue to simmer an additional 10-15 minutes or until done.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Mix, then heat about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Off heat, add red wine vinegar. Ladle into bowls.

Serves: 8-10

“Kindness is like snow—it beautifies everything it covers.” –Kahlil Gibran