Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Long time no see....

Boy, this has been a year... too much, too many.  Perhaps one day I'll write about some of it, but for now, I'll start where I am....

COOKING!  Yep, I love to cook for others (not so excited about cooking meals for one tho.)  So this time of year lends itself to sharpening the knives and filling the freezer.

Our family includes some vegetarians... and others who have been vegetarians; I love that food too.

My sister likes my vegetarian southern cornbread dressing, so I make it for her each winter holiday. 

Now, one issue I have had is that most commercial vegetable stock tastes thin, no complexity and often too sweet.  So lately, I have been experimenting.  I don't have a recipe for you, but I can tell you the process I've been using.

Isn't that just lovely?  The process takes a while, but is not labor intensive.

I start by roasting the veges in the oven.  I put a little olive oil on the chunked veges and spread them out as flat as I can in a large roaster... 12"x15"x 2-3" works great.  I do not line it as I'll deglaze it after the veges roast.  I use an oven temperature between 325 degrees and 425 and periodically turn the veges.  Usually, I am roasting something else, so I just stick it in at whatever temp the other dish requires.  (Hmm, I didn't decide to post on my blog until I was past all these parts, so I neglected to get photos.) 

I cook them until the veges are browned and some juices have begun to caramelize.  I transfer the roasted veges to a large pot and fill with water, put it on simmer & let it cook away.  I add some liquid to the roasting pan, deglaze it and add to the simmering pot. 

Often, I am continuing to cook, so I throw vege scraps in as it cooks.  Sometimes, I need to add water, but I try not to do that too often as it may thin out the flavor. 

Now, as to veges.  I clean them well, but also use parts one would not put into a dish... onion skins, celery tops etc.  I'll chunk cut: 3 whole onions,7-8 carrots peeled (or not), 7-8 outer celery stalks with tops, tops from the more tender green/white celery stalks that I use in other dishes, 3-4 parsnips or however many I have, whole cloves of garlic including their skin, sometimes 7-8 smallish tomatoes, a handful of Italian parsley along with stems (usually not roasted, but added to simmering pot).  If I have them, I add potatoes in their scrupulously cleaned jackets.  Also, if they are on hand, I add mushroom trimmings or whole ones if I need to use them up.  One vegetable I always include now is turnip, two or three small to medium (peeled lest they have been waxed.)  The celery, parsley and turnips balance out the sweet of the onions and carrots, and they add complexity.

I use what I have on hand.  I don't use bad produce of course and try to not use older veges, but occasionally have included carrots I would not have served raw and the broth was still wonderful.  When I used those older carrots, I included some fresh ones too.

In the future, I'd like to add kale to the simmering broth and see what happens then.

Up to this point, I have avoided veges in the brassica family: cabbage, brussel sprouts etc.  Some of my research sources recommended leaving these out.  Once I used rutabaga... I wasn't fond of that broth, but perhaps it wasn't the rutabaga's fault so I may try it again.

I let it cook for a while, atleast several hours.  I partly cover it to reduce the amount of evaporation.  I cut off the burner & let it cool, meanwhile removing the spent veges with an oriental open wire mesh course skimmer:
12 inch Bamboo Handled Coarse Skimmer I use a large flat wooden spoon to mush the veges to extract as much juice as I can.  Compost the veges.  Allow to fully cool, pour through a fine wire strainer and/or cheese cloth.  If I am not using immediately, I freeze it in useful portions; otherwise, just refrigerate.  If I have to stop mid process, I'll remove the veges & store them separately, recombining when I continue the process.  I think this guards against bitterness.

So far, I have avoided adding salt and herbs (other than the parsley), but I plan to add thyme and bay leaf in the future, plus experiment with when and how much salt to add.

I hope this is helpful!  It really is such a simple process, and so natural when one is already cooking.  Experiment!

Happy holidays!