So here it is February in Upstate NY and even though it's technically the shortest month of the year it's the longest in my book because it's smack dab in the middle of winter and the weather is generally crap. Oh, sure, all the skiers love it. But since I broke my butt cross-country skiing a few years back, I'm never strapping another pair of anything that slides or rolls to my feet again. So even though I've taken up snowshoeing and love-love-love it, the unpredictable snow storms and below-zero wind chills sometimes get me in a funk. But, the days are getting longer and each day is one day closer to spring I say. And it's also the perfect time of year to whip up some homemade vegetable stock, especially if you're sick. It's nourishing, comforting,and smells downright heavenly simmering on the stove. Use it not just to make soups, but to saute veggies or use in place of water to make flavorful rice. Or just sip a warm cup if you're a little under the weather.
There are dozens of ways to make stock but here's how mine went today. A terrific reference is from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook, where chef Del Sroufe provides his recipe which includes green lentils (which I tried in my batch today and it tastes great).
Several stalks of celery, include the leaves
6 baby bella mushrooms
1 leek, white and light green portions
1/4 cup green lentils, picked over for stones and grit and rinsed
Few cloves of minced garlic
Generous handful fresh cilantro
Small handful fresh basil
Small handful whole peppercorns
Dash of Himalayan pink sea salt
Large soup pot
12 c water
Use one large or 2 small-medium sized onions. Peel the onions and remove the ends. Chop into large pieces.
Wash the celery and chop into large pieces.
Peel and wash carrots, remove the ends. Chop into large pieces.
Wash mushrooms well and chop into large pieces.
Throw veggies into your soup pot.
Leek--leeks need a lot of washing, because they are composed of rings within rings, much like an onion, and can have a lot of dirt trapped in there, unless you buy them pre-cut and pre-washed. But they impart a lovely flavor. If you buy a whole leek, remove the "hairy" root end of the white part and the upper dark green part of the stalk. Slice the white and light green stalk into 1/2-inch size pieces and separate each piece into its individual rings. I use a colander in a larger bowl and fill it with water. Put the leeks in the colander in the water and agitate. Pull out the colander, empty the water in the bowl and start all over again. Repeat several times until there is no more grit visible in the water. Throw the cleaned leeks in the soup pot.
Lentils--need to be inspected because they can have a few stones or grit here and there. Just spread them out on a paper or dish towel to look them over and pick out any debris. Then rinse them well in a strainer and throw into the soup pot.
Peel and mince a few cloves of fresh garlic, or if you're lazy like me buy some minced garlic in water and add it to the soup pot.
Fresh herbs are a delight in the stock. I used cilantro and basil. Wash both and throw them in, stems and all (not the dirty roots obviously). In the past when I used to make chicken stock, I'd use fresh thyme, sage, and a tad of rosemary, so those would taste good in this stock, too.
Finally, a small handful of whole peppercorns and a few twists of the Himalayan sea salt grinder add a nice flavor.
Bring to a boil then reduce to lowest simmer for about an hour, giving it a stir every now and then.
I wish I could put the smell on here, because it rivals any chicken stock I've ever made. It's downright heavenly and smells incredibly comforting.
Remove from heat and allow to cool a little till you can strain it into a bowl safely without damaging your bowl or burning yourself. Strain the broth and discard (or compost) the solids. I use a fine mesh metal strainer. Refrigerate what broth you need and freeze what you don't. I don't keep mine for more than a week in the fridge. Use this magical concoction in soups, in place of water to cook rice or quinoa, or do what I'm going to do today and sip a warm cup after snowshoeing.