Food & Drink Liquid gold

Anything is better than bouillion, but homemade vegetable broth is the standard

The last time I made vegan curry soup the result was bland, salty, and boring. After beating myself up and dumping the disaster down the drain, I realized the blame lay neither in my recipe nor my culinary skills but in the store-bought box of liquid veggie salt I had poured into the pot.

Meatless in Steer City

That experience ended my relationship with convenience and crap; I got to work with my cookbooks, vowing to find the best veggie-broth recipe. After several test batches, I discovered that veggie stockin’ is easy and can be improvisational if you stick to a handful of rules:

5 cups vegetables to 6 cups water makes about 3 to 4 cups stock.

Avoid cabbage, eggplant, strong greens, such as Swiss chard, and cruciferous veggies in general.

Good stock options include carrots, onions, potatoes, corncobs, fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, clean organic vegetable skins, and a few tablespoons of lentils.

Customize the ingredients to fit the recipe. For example, add ginger and garlic to create a more Asian-tasting stock. For sweeter soups, add more carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.

If winging it makes you nervous, below are a couple recipes to get you started. Remember, use what you have in the house or simply tweak these to suit your own tastes.

“Pressed for Time”

Pressed Veggie Broth (Yields 4 cups)

This recipe, perfect for the weeknight rush, uses carrots and sweet potato for a slightly sweeter finish.

Combine in a stockpot:

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, white part only, cleaned thoroughly and sliced
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 medium sweet potato, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 c dry white wine
6 c cold water
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 stems fresh parsley

Simmer gently, partially covered, 45-60 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Strain into another pot or heatproof container, pressing down on the vegetables to extract their juices. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste.

If you have more time and want a more intense flavor, begin by cooking the vegetables over medium heat in 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter for 15 minutes or until wilted. Then add the water and follow the remainder of the recipe.

“Roll out the Red Carpet”

Roasted Veggie Stock (Yields 6 cups)

Although more complex and time-consuming, this recipe packs a flavor wallop in hearty stews and soups.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly greased roasting pan combine:

8 oz mushrooms, wiped clean
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, greens removed, cleaned thoroughly and sliced
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c shallots, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Roast until well browned, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Move vegetables to a stockpot and deglaze the roasting pan, scraping up the roasted bits with:

1 c cold water

Add to stockpot with:

7 c cold water
1/2 c dry white wine
10 sprigs of thyme
10 stems of parsley
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Pinch of red-pepper flakes

Simmer gently, uncovered, 45-60 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Strain into another pot or heatproof container, pressing down on the vegetables to extract their juice. Salt to taste.

Making soup stock is a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and since the stock will store in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for up to two months, why not make a few batches? It saves time—especially if it means never pouring another soup down the drain.

By M.L. Sharpe

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