It is still true that the single biggest upgrade I’ve ever made in my cooking is when I started making my own stocks. They are easy, much less expensive than buying cans and quarts, better for you with no fat, little salt, and no preservatives, and their flavor is an incredible foundation for soups and sauces. Having posted in the past on chicken stock and beef stock, I had to add my latest craze to the series: vegetable stock.
This recipe owes much to the excellent culinary wisdom of Maxine Clark of Risotto (2011), though I have modified it much (and thus all mistakes are my own). Its genius lies in the inclusion of a lemon, which brightens the whole concoction and brings out all the other flavors. Friends, it’s delicious. I’ve been drinking it in mugs.
As it happens, it does matter what vegetables you choose. Starchy vegetables like potatoes will leave you with a cloudy stock without much flavor, and cabbage will produce an unpleasant smell. Try this list for starters:
1 large onion (can also add a few scallions, 1 shallot, 1-2 leeks–makes it better)
1 end of celery and several ribs
3-4 whole cloves garlic
1 large zucchini
bunch fresh parsley
bunch fresh basil
3 bay leaves
pinch kosher salt
6 black peppercorns
Wash everything well. Peel the onions, shallot, and garlic. Halve the tomato(es) and the lemon. Roughly chunk the onion, carrots, and zucchini. Slice a thin bit off the dirty celery end, cut it open vertically and rinse the dirt out.
Slice the leeks vertically too, so you can rinse the grit out of all those beautiful celadon layers. As dear Julia Child says, “There’s nothing worse than a gritty leek!” (chortle chortle).
Then strain out the vegetables. I like to use a fine-mesh sieve for this. The stock will be golden and delicious. It can be used immediately if you are cooking for thirty or something, or frozen in zip-lock bags to flavor your vegetarian soups and sauces all month.