I go through a lot of stock.  I use it in soups, stews, and braises, and for cooking and reheating grains.  Chicken stock is my favorite for general cooking, but since I only roast a chicken once a month, I end up making a fair amount of vegetable stock, too.  And recently I’ve found that in some dishes — especially simple vegetable and bean ones — I actually prefer it.

The basic ingredients in vegetable stock are carrots, celery, onions, garlic, parsley stems or thyme sprigs, and bay leaf (just like in a meat-based stock).  Then you can add pretty much any other vegetable you want, except for those in the cabbage family (broccoli, turnips, etc.) or greens in a large quantity (though a few chard leaves won’t hurt).  For a darker broth, brown the vegetables in a little olive oil first.  For a more complex, flavorful broth, add mushrooms and a dash of soy sauce.  For a sturdier broth, use leftover bean-cooking liquid in place of some of the water, or throw in a few potatoes.  Vegetable stocks don’t take as long to cook as chicken stock — 30 to 45 minutes should do it.

Basic vegetable stock

Yield:  About 3 quarts

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks (or try parsnips)

4 stalks celery, cut into large chunks (or try fennel)

2 onions, peeled and quartered (or 1 onion and 2 leeks, washed, trimmed, and roughly chopped)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

Handful mushrooms, any kind you like, halved

12 c. cold water

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Handful parsley stems

2 bay leaves

A few sprigs thyme, if you have it

About 10 black peppercorns

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over high heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms release their liquid and vegetables are nicely browned, about 8 minutes (turn down heat if vegetables brown too quickly).

Pour in water and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Add potatoes, herbs, and peppercorns to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Strain and discard vegetables.  Freeze for up to three months.

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