If, like me, you’ve got a fridge (or two, including the beer fridge in the basement) full of leftover vegetables because you couldn’t stop yourself at the farmers’ market, make vegetable stock for the freezer.
Maybe you grow your own veg. I don’t have enough space for more than Swiss chard, green beans, lettuce and tomatoes in pots, but I know they all ripen in a rush, leaving you with a glut to freeze or give away.
Veggie stock is the answer!
In my fridge I have a leftover zucchini; a half onion, some two-week old scallions and the green ends of leeks; some pea pods (I knew they’d come in handy for something); a couple of elderly parsnips; carrots I didn’t realize were there when I bought more; a cup of chopped tomatoes more than a recipe required–plus dozens on the vine, ripening fast; Swiss chard– there’s fresher in the garden waiting to be picked; a huge, luscious head of celery and a big bunch of parsley; and more veg yet to be found in the bottom of the crisper. I also have a nice fresh fennel bulb willing to give up its stems for the stock pot.
Making vegetable stock is way easier than pie–no recipe is needed– and anything goes, although I try not to use too many strong-tasting veg like broccoli and cabbage. All you do is saute the onions (don’t skimp on these) and some garlic in oil in a big stock pot, chop whatever vegetables you have and add them to the pot to colour lightly. Throw in some bay leaf, peppercorns and a few herbs if you like. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Let it cook for half an hour or till the vegetables are tender and have given up their flavour, cool and drain off the fragrant stock. Add salt now or when you use the stock. Store in plastic containers and freeze.
I cut the vegetables into about one-inch chunks because someone told me they release more flavour if there are more surfaces open to the liquid. I’m also careful not to simmer it too long or it develops an old, overcooked taste.
Another tip: I save the water I’ve cooked vegetables in, freeze it and add it to the stock. Asparagus water is especially flavourful–even Mordecai Richler said so: I thought it was my discovery till a character in Barney’s Version commented that his mother told him to always save it because it was so good.
Some cooks also freeze vegetable peelings for use in stock, but I haven’t gone that far yet.
Vegetable stock is great in soups, stews and curries, or to cook rice. And vegetarians love it.
I also have a half-dozen ears of corn in the fridge threatening to dry up, but corn might make the stock too sweet (especially with the carrots and parsnips), and a Mexican-style corn soup is almost easier than stock . My recipe follows.
Corn Soup, Mexican Style
6 ears of fresh corn, the kernels cut off
3 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk or 10% cream
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine. More if you like
Salt and pepper
Chopped sweet red pepper
Whirl the corn, onion and garlic and one cup of the chicken stock in a blender or food processor till it’s a thick paste. Melt the butter in a large saucepan till it bubbles. Add the corn paste and saute a few minutes.
Add the rest of the chicken stock, the milk and the jalapeno. Simmer about 10 minutes, till corn is cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish each serving with chopped red pepper.
Variations: Instead of chicken stock, make a corn stock from the shorn cobs by simmering them in three or four cups of water for a half-hour. Or use part chicken and part corn stock.
A cup or so of cooked corn kernels and some cooked crumbled bacon are also good additions.