Sunday, January 9, 2011
Resolution Recipe: DIY Vegan Soup Stock
This week is a small reprieve from the madness of the holidays before the lesser madness of a smaller holiday descends upon us. Yes friends, my delightful husband and I are leaving on a jet plane this Friday bound for San Francisco. Land of vegan delights! We'll only be there for four days, so we're going to try to pack in as much eating as possible. Okay that might be the royal "we". But as I figure it, we don't need to do a lot of sight seeing. I've been to the city three times before (though never as a person with a real job, the kind of job which allows one to afford a meal at Millennium). And the Man of Science lived in San Francisco for several years when he was doing his PhD at Stanford. So neither of us needs to run around jumping on and off cable cars or visiting Alcatraz. No sir. Which leaves plenty of time for eating.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Here in the frozen north, I'm going to be posting recipes this month that will do more than feed you. They will make your life better. I know, it's a big claim to make. But with so many New Year's resolutions focusing on losing weight, saving money, and being more self-sufficient/environmentally friendly/organized/who-knows-what-else, certain kinds of cooking can really make a dent in all those goals. Take, for example, homemade soup stock.
If you make your own soup stock you do the following:
1. Use up vegetable bits that would otherwise go into the garbage or compost, hence reducing your food waste.
2. Control the ingredients, namely the bad stuff like sodium, that end up in your soups.
3. Save money on the purchase of commercial soup stocks, some of which have nasty things in them like MSG, so they're bad for you AND costly.
Ta da! Look at how much goodness comes from something that is basically a half hour spent boiling veggies on your stove.
All you need is a stock pot and a freezable container or plastic ziploc bag (I don't buy Ziploc bags, but I think someone gave me something in the one pictured above, so I washed it out and now it stays in the freezer getting filled and emptied on a regular basis). This is not a exact science, but I'll give you the steps for how I do it.
For a few weeks, months, whatever, keep your unused vegetable scraps in the freezer. I usually end up with an assortment of kale stems, celery leaves, carrot ends, and limp root veggies. It's best to wash the scraps off before you put them in the bag, that way you don't have to worry about grit in your soup.
When the bag is full, empty it into your stock pot. Any large pot will do. The vegetables should take up most of the space in the pot.
Chop an onion in half and add the halves to your pot. Also toss in four or five peeled cloves of garlic, some bay leaves and any sprigs of fresh herbs that you might have hanging around. Toss in a tablespoon of salt, a few grinds of pepper and then add as much water as you can without getting into boil-over territory.
Put the pot on a burner turned to high and wait for it to boil. Then put the lid on and reduce the heat to medium low.
You will want to cook this until the vegetables have almost turned to mush. For my fairly small stock pot that takes around 45 minutes.
When the stock is done, strain it through a large colander to get the big chunks of vegetables out. If you are the kind of person who owns cheesecloth, you can strain it through that to remove the smaller chunks. I just usually strain smaller amounts of it through my wire mesh strainer.
And that's it! Stock can be kept in the fridge for a week or so, but I like to freeze it in easily usable portions and just grab whatever I need from the freezer. A few minutes on the stove top and it melts perfectly.
And this has nothing to do with soup, but it's pretty great:
-I got an iPhone for Christmas from the very generous Man of Science. It is so fun. My favourite thing about it so far is "Epin Win". If you've seen me in person you probably already know that, because I've no doubt shown you how cool it is that my avatar kicks the crap out of the items on my to-do list when I finish them.
-My camera died right before Christmas (as it always does before special events) and rather than send it away to get it fixed (for the fourth time in three years) I decided to get myself a new camera at the Boxing Day sales. It's a bit more advanced than my old one, so it's taking me a while to figure out all the bells and whistles. But I am relieved to have a camera that won't fall apart right before my trip to Florida, or my trip to France, or my wedding, or Christmas.
-If you like reading things that have nothing to do with food, you may want to check out this new book that I contributed too, These Are Not Movies. It is a collection of un-filmed screenplays and mine is called "All The Single Dragon Slayers". I'm not sure if it's available on line, but those in Ottawa can get it at Collected Works, Octopus Books, or Perfect Books. Anyone else can just e-mail me and I'll hook you up.