How to Make a Versatile Vegetable Stock

Today I’m going to post a recipe for a versatile vegetable stock that breaks almost all of the rules you’re typically supposed to follow.

I posted a much more traditional stock recipe several months ago that was fundamentally a seafood stock, but it could be based on other meats or modified to be vegetarian.

But I was entirely unsatisfied with the vegetarian version. It suffered from the same flaw shared by many vegetarian recipe modifications, which simply instruct you to leave out the meat. Thanks. How creative.

The result is that you end up with two-dimensional version of the original recipe. It’s vegetarian by default, not by design. So today, I’m going to share with you a simple stock recipe that is vegetarian by design. It’s from one of our house favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Soup Cuisine by Jay Solomon. And best of all, it throws out a lot of the conventional wisdom for stock recipes.

Let's start off by quoting Jay Solomon himself:

"...feel free to improvise.... If you desire a piquant broth, add a few chile peppers. Ginger adds a fragrant nuance; beets turn the broth magenta. Experiment on your own, and remember, variety is the spice of life. "

Of course, traditional convention dictates that a soup stock should be mild-tasting, and should act only as a vehicle for the flavors of the dish you are making. This stock recipe, however, actually encourages you to add flavorful and creative ingredients.

Convention also dictates that a soup stock should be bland in color--again, in order to be a passive component of your dish. But here we have our friendly vegetarian expert Jay Solomon telling us to consider adding beets to our vegetarian stock for a deep magenta color! Imagine if I used this stock recipe to jazz up a batch of brown rice, or as a base for my insanely easy-to-make Mock Wild Rice recipe?

For a (former) stock traditionalist like me, this is radical, mind-exploding stuff.

And that’s what’s so great about cooking. There is always room for new challenges to the conventional wisdom. Enjoy this stock recipe and think about what dishes it could influence in your kitchen!

Versatile Vegetable Stock
(slightly modified from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

3-4 carrots, coarsley chopped
2 red or green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
3-4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
4-6 whole garlic cloves, cut in half
1 small bunch parsley, stems and all, chopped
1 bunch broccoli, coarsley chopped (optional)
6 or more cups water (enough to cover all the veggies)
1/4 cup dry white or red wine (optional)
Any other stems, trimmings or leftovers from greens or vegetables you are using.

1) Combine all the ingredients in a large stock pot, make sure all the vegetables are covered with water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 4 hours at least (7-8 hours is preferable for a rich stock). Add more water to the pot if necessary to keep the vegetables covered with liquid.

2) After you are finished simmering the stock, use a strainer to strain out the vegetables, and save the liquid (obviously). Your stock should last a week or more in your refrigerator, or indefinitely if frozen.

From the recipe:
"Here is a basic recipe, but feel free to improvise. If there are leftover parsnips, tomatoes, or stems from leafy greens, add those as well. If you desire a piquant broth, add a few chile peppers. Ginger adds a fragrant nuance; beets turn the broth magenta. Experiment on your own, and remember variety is the spice of life."

A few final notes:

1) The original recipe says to cook the stock for just one hour, but I believe a good stock should be cooked for a minimum of 4 hours and preferably more like 7-8 hours. Don't worry, you don't have to stand there and watch it all that time! Just get the pot boiling, cover it, and turn the heat down so it's at a gentle simmer. Then just check in on it once every hour or so, adding water back if too much liquid cooks away.

2) Have confidence about experimenting aggressively here. It's only a stock recipe, and by definition it will be made predominantly of water. So no matter what you do it’s not going to have that strong a taste. Feel free to take some chances.

3) I'd consider doubling or tripling this recipe if you have a large enough pot. This is a perfect example of a scalable dish where doubling or tripling the batch doesn't really require any more incremental work, yet you still get 2x or 3x the finished product.

4) Finally, consider putting the stock into a group of pre-measured containers and then freezing them. We usually freeze them in some combination of 1-cup, 2-cup and 3-cup units. This way, it doesn’t matter if a recipe calls for one cup of stock or seven cups of stock, you can combine your various pre-measured containers to match your needs.


Anonymous said...

You have always been an expert on stocks.

I always wish I had stock in my freezer because the stuff in the cartons is always brutal - but I am always just too lazy to make it. This is a great event for a rainy day with a newborn at home. And it's pretty easy. Thanks for the spark.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the stock tip. Always good to hear about a stock that's doing well...

Daniel said...

Yeah, I've always been partial to the more, uh, liquid stocks....


azactor said...

I set out to do 2 things:

1. Make a Vegetable Stock
2. Make a thick Tomato Soup

I followed all the Vegie Stock ideas and used the Vegie's I like.

I simmered it for 1 hour and drained the juice.

Here's what I DIDN'T do: throw away the left over vegies.

Every recipe I've seen for making Vegetable Stock says to throw out the extra vegies when it's all done simmering. I figured I could use them as a base for my Tomato Soup.

After you drain them, take the vegies and put them in a blender to puree them. I'm sure everyone says to throw them away because after you render the juice, the vegies will have no flavor. Wrong. I took a little bit of the stock water and put it in the blender also. This way, I have the taste and nutrients of the vegies I just cooked. It made it into a sauce-like consistency. I used some spices and a lot of Garlic. Added my Tomatoes, and it tasted pretty good.

ALSO, I use this sauce as a Pizza Sauce. It is really good and adds that vegie taste to the pizza.

Just take a Pita and spread the "sauce" on, add your other favorite toppings and you have a good home-made pizza.

Try it!

Daniel said...

Fascinating! I seriously never thought of this. It's an exceptional idea. I will be sure to try it.

Thank you for sharing!


Wendy said...

I tried this and loved it. I adapted a little bit, leaving out the peppers and adding in some apple cores for a bit of sweetness. And then I did as azactor suggested and kept the veggies and pureed them into my tomato soup the next night. It was fantastic. I hope you don't mind, but I linked to this post on my blog.

Daniel said...

Hi Wendy, thanks for reading. I really like the idea of adding apple cores for sweetness... I have the most creative readers.

Thanks for your input!


Unknown said...

I've read elsewhere that vegetable stock does not benefit from extended cooking times the way meat stocks do. You will not extract any more flavor after a certain amount of time. One hour is probably more than sufficient. Most recipes I've read suggest 30-45 mins.