BETWEEN DEEP FREEZES YESTERDAY I grabbed the scissors and a bag and out I went: last call for vegetable-garden snippets. Why leave those final bits of kale and collards, parsley and pak choi–tattered as they may be–to winter’s ravages? Combined with some onions and a winter squash that weren’t storing well in the cellar, among other things, they became stock.
impromptu, fat-free vegetable stock
I use this as my standard soup base, and also freeze small amounts (ice cubes or the like) for use when sauteeing vegetables, making sauces, etc. Because I always include winter squash such as ‘Butternut’ in the mix, the broth is rich-tasting enough to drink hot on its own, perhaps with a pinch of salt. In winter, I often have a cup between meals.
Note: Dicing and sauteeing the onions, celery and carrots (called a mirepoix) in butter and/or olive oil first yields a rich, more traditional style of stock. I skip it, and toss in the squash. No fat, no chopping, less fuss.
My preferred ingredients:
- Onions (peels on)
- Garlic (peels on, cloves smashed with flat blade of knife)
- Winter squash (no seeds, but skin on if grown organically and not badly blemished)
- Kombu seaweed (kelp, available dried in health food store; maybe two 6-inch by 2-inch strips to start)
- Fresh ginger (just a slice or two, unless you want its flavor to dominate)
- Something green and leafy (kale, collards, chard, Asian greens, parsley, or a combination–but careful with those that are strong tasting like beet greens or mustard; unless you want a robust flavor, use them sparingly)
- Another root vegetable (turnip, daikon radish, parsnip, rutabaga)
- Celery (if I have it)
Simply assemble vegetables that are washed but not peeled (assuming that all are organically grown) in a large pot. Large ones may need to be cut into coarse chunks. Cover with water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, covered, until everything is falling apart. Let cool; I often leave it overnight to let all the flavors intensify. Strain.
At garden-harvest time I use up all my misshapen carrots or squash that didn’t quite ripen enough to store well, greens with flea-beetle holes and so forth to make stock–anything that’s tasty and fresh enough but not picture-perfect goes into the soup. When there is an excess of something–green beans, for instance, in late summer–I toss those in, too, and maybe a bay leaf sometimes or another favorite herb. Use your judgment, and develop your own favorite blends that favor the flavor of one ingredient or another.