Friday, July 27, 2007

My foray into stocks

I've tried making my own soup stock a few times before - usually on the rare occasion when I actually buy and cook a whole chicken - but I never managed to make a habit of it. Cooking with my sister, I'd see her stashing away bits and pieces in a jar in the fridge. These "stock options" as she calls them, would get thrown together in a big pot of simmering water at the end of the week, and become a delicious vegetable stock. Once you get into saving ends of things, the bits of veggies you'd otherwise throw out, it so easily becomes a part of your routine and the reward is delicious - always having on hand yummy stock to make soups, sauces, risottos...

I guess the timing was just right for me to get hooked. Last month, hanging out with my sister and her good influence coincided with a few weekly trips to the farmers market. I couldn't just throw out those beautiful fresh onion skins, or the pretty ends of those curly garlic scapes, could I? So into the stock options bowl they went, and a week later I was searching for a simple stock recipe that I could make without much effort while hanging out a home on a Saturday afternoon. The one with the shortest necessary simmer time turned out to be from Super Natural Cooking (previously). I took her basic method and then ignored the ingredient list, adding absolutely anything that seemed like a good idea to me on that particular day. This resulted in a super-flavourful, distinctive stock. If you want a more neutral stock, don't add things which have really strong flavours on their own. But that's the great thing about making stock - it's so flexible, and you can experiment with any type of flavours you want (a new twist each week!).

Quick and Easy Veggie Stock
[adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson]

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, chopped into a few large chunks (optional)
2 carrots, snapped in half (optional)
salt and pepper,
fresh herbs, any kind you like
veggie scraps (here's what I've tried so far, but the possibilities are endless: ends of zucchini, peppers, bok choy, shitake mushroom stems, rosemary stalks, basil stems, onion and garlic skins, leftover fresh dill, ends of garlic scapes...)
10 cups water

1. Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onion, celery and carrots for 5 min or so. Add salt and pepper, water and all veggie scraps.

2. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1/2 hour - 1 1/2 hours. I haven't been precise with the timing at all. Just simmer for as much time as you have, or until the stock is nice and flavourful.

3. Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl. Let it sit to cool for a while, then tuck it away in the freezer or fridge to be ready for when you're craving risotto!

This risotto we made with my first batch of stock was the best risotto ever! We kept it super simple, just started by sauteing onion and garlic and roasted a bunch of cherry tomatoes and zucchini while we cooked the ristotto, and tossed it all together in the end with a bunch of feta. The stock was packed with flavours of red onion, rosemary, and mushroom, so it added so much to this simple risotto. Enough to make weekly stock production a habit for me!


Cathie said...


Cathie said...

Ok Meg, I'm inspired! I'm going to invest in my own weekly stock options. What goes around comes around in more ways than one. I used to keep a jar in the fridge with any water used to cook veggies and that would turn into stock at the end of the week. Why did I dump all the scrapes in the compost? I'm already dreaming of my own super stock risotto.

Laura said...

That sounds delicious, Meg. Particularly the resulting know me and risottos. It's their season again soon! It's a great idea to have some stock handy for when you need it, and to think that it doesn't have additives or way too much salt makes it all the better. Never thought of using onion and garlic skins!