FRESH STOCK: A DEFINING FLAVOR BOOST
Fresh vegetable stock makes all the difference when cooking soups, sauces and many other recipes. The good news is that you can put a simple stock together in 10 minutes or less. It cooks while you start other food preparation, or you can walk away and leave it on the stove to simmer.
People often think of stock as a receptacle for ends of chopped vegetables from prior meals or unused produce that’s on its way to the compost. That’s fine as long as the ingredients are still edible! You can put anything into a stock that you like and not go too far wrong, though I avoid using peppers, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower) and some greens, such as mustard and turnip greens and collards. All of these vegetables have either an astringent, bitter or pungent flavor, or in the case of peppers, simply a strong personality — any of which can overpower certain delicate recipes (the avocado and cucumber soup I recently posted comes to mind).
If you can afford to use organic vegetables and fresh organic herbs, do so whenever possible for the healthiest and most delicious results.
Once you start cooking with fresh stock, you may join the ranks of home cooks who leave the boxed stock behind except for a rare “emergency.” I developed an aversion to store-bought stocks once I started creating soups made with the real thing — that simmering broth on the stove which a half-hour earlier was a heap of brightly colored vegetables and fresh herbs. When you leave the box or can behind, you also forgo the taste of citric acid and other preservatives common to store-bought products. With fresh stock, your final dish will taste pristine.
There’s an added health benefit in making your own stock. Ayurveda teaches that fresh food is alive with prana, the essential life force. Boxed and canned foods…not so much!
If you must use a store-bought stock, boxed products and flavor cubes are the safest bet. Avoid cans to protect your health and the health of your family. Epoxy coating derived from the chemical BPA lines most of the beverage cans made in the U.S., according to the Environmental Working Group. “BPA is a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system, even in small amounts. It has been linked to a wide variety of ills, including infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral changes in children and resistance to chemotherapy treatments.”
2018 Update: After a two-year government funded study, the FDA has suggested that plastic bottles are not leeching enough BPA to cause ill health. However, plastics industry has lobbied heavily for this decision. I’d rather continue to avoid it. Here are two articles if you’re interested:
Consider making stock on the weekend when 10 minutes may be easier to find. Or during the week, throw your veggies into the pot and cover them with water before you sit to meditate or go for a run.