Stock, Where all Good Vegetables Go to Die
I like to eat many things, but I only like to cook some things. I reluctantly use recipes, and I hate the act of measuring. This puts baking beyond my kitchen skills. Likewise, my patience or lack thereof, limits my desire to tackle things like stocks. Or so I thought. I told you that vegetables have a very long life, indeed, but they do need a peaceful place eventually to be put to rest. Facing a couple of dishes that could have used vegetable stock, I decided, what they hey, give it a swirl. It pleased like hell, the miser in me, using a bunch of items in the fridge that would have otherwise gone in the compost heap. Then, it turned out to be something at my level. And it turned out really darned good. From now on, all my old vegetables are going into the stock pot.
Clearly, I am a convert to vegetable stock because vegetable stock requires no formula, no recipe. It is a dish with one guideline and three easy steps. The guideline: use about any vegetable except for those in the cabbage family. The steps: 1: sweat an onion in a some pure olive oil or other light oil; 2: add a bunch of odds and ends vegetables found–I used arugula that had wilted, a chunk of daikon still around (similar to turnips often called for in stock recipes), parsley stems (see why to save), two over-ripe tomatoes (good for color too), a few thyme stems, a few carrots; 3: cover with cold water. OK, those three steps will not quite get you stock. Season aggressively with salt. I added several peppercorns, a few cloves of garlic (don’t have to peel) and a few star anise seeds (a brilliant touch if I say so myself). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until you decide you got other things to do. Strain into another pot, pressing down on the veg to extract as much juices as possible. Use.
Use. This was was rich, complex broth that could meet many kitchen needs. The specific dishes that I needed to draw vegetable stock from were in the Sephardic Jewish repertoire. Kosher laws requiring milk and meat apart makes vegetable stock more versatile in the Jewish kitchen. Vegetable stock is parve or goes both ways. I would be happy, however, to use this stock in a braise or for poached meats. I could see using this stock for some gravies, after all, my intended purpose was for an egg-lemon sauce. Soup would be just around the corner with this stock, and with a bit of bones, a chunk of sausage or something, it could be properly carnivorous. It really opens opportunities to have good stock around. It really is not difficult to have good stock around when you can turn your oldest vegetables into stock. If I can do it.