Cleaning out the veg bin is not something I love to do. The guilt of throwing away veggies that seemed like such a good idea at the store, but were never put to use is a hard task to bear. It's been made a lot more manageable by the compost bin in my backyard where most past-their-prime veggies make their way. But, if the veggies are still usable, just not at their best for a certain recipe, I've started using them for stock.
In the past I've used my homemade chicken stock whenever I make soup, even if it's vegetable-based. However, two things have happened recently to make me change my mind. First, my friend David recommended throwing a roasted duck carcass in with my next batch of chicken stock for a really rich, deep flavor. He was absolutely right about that, but the stock is now too rich and prominent a flavor for most vegetable soups. Second, I was recently preparing a dish to take to a get together of girlfriends. One of the attendees is a vegetarian and not being able to turn to my trusty stock was a problem. I decided it was time for me to start keeping my own vegetable stock on hand.
I read through the CIA's recipe for vegetable stock and this is loosely based on that process. I improvised with what I had in the veg bin and you should to. Just stay away from any starchy vegetables (potatoes) and anything with a very pronounced flavor (fennel) should be used in very small quantities. Also try to keep in mind what you'll be using the stock for and adjust flavors accordingly.
Makes about 3 1/2 quarts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 medium shallot, roughly chopped
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds mixed veg cut into 1 - 2 inch chunks
(celery, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, etc.)
4 quarts water
Salt to taste
Sachet d'epices (instructions follow)
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and shallots. Fry until fragrant, but not yet brown. Add remaining vegetables and sweat for 3 - 4 minutes until warmed through. Pour water over and bring to a simmer. Add a few pinches of salt and the sachet d'epices. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain the stock and use in your favorite soup. I also freeze one quart containers for future use.
3 - 4 parsley stems
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 t cracked peppercorns
Wrap the items together in cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. You may include one garlic clove if desired, but I left it out as there is already garlic in the stock.