Friday, December 19, 2008

Vegetable broth

Now that it's cold and wintry, it seems that practically every evening the only thing I want for dinner is a nice hearty bowl of soup. Since the beginning of December, I think I've made 4 or 5 different types of soup, which translates to 8-10 soup dinners in 19 days since I always make too much for one night!

Anyways, making soup is easy and almost always works out well, and it's even nicer when you make your own broth. It just feels so much more authentic than throwing in a little cube or using a store-bought version. Plus, since you decide what's in it, you have more control over the tastes that will go into your soups.

Though I have yet to try my hand at a meat/poultry/fish-based broth, I'm very happy with this vegetable broth, which is also slightly easier on the wallet! I usually make a humongous pot and then freeze everything I'm not going to use in the next couple of days. You can freeze your broth in various containers - I've seen suggestions for using ice cube trays or muffin tins - and then transfer the frozen brothsicles into ziploc bags for safekeeping. The night before you plan to use one, just pop it into the fridge to thaw and then heat it up immediately before using it.

The recipe below is my standard one, but you can throw in all sorts of vegetables, legumes, and spices. I would advise against anything that might give off a particularly overwhelming flavor, like pepper or tomato, but as always, it's up to you! Here's what I like to use:

1 leek (can substitute with a yellow onion)
A few cloves of garlic
1-2 carrots
A stalk of celery, with leaves if desired
A few sprigs of parsley
Whatever leafy greens of the cruciferous family are on hand - spinach is good, cabbage leaves, kale, etc.

Peel the garlic, crush and set aside. Rinse the leek and tear off the outermost leaves. Chop off the rough, green leaves at the top and then slit the leek lengthwise with a knife. Holding the leek under cold running water, spread out the leaves so that every leaf gets thoroughly rinsed on both sides. When the leek has been well-washed, chop it into little circles and set aside.

Peel the carrot and chop into small bits. Wash the celery, greens and parsley, and chop these up too.

Find the biggest pot you can and fill it about 3/4 full with water. Put all the vegetables into the pot. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. when the water is boiling, add the spices, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to the lowest degree possible and let simmer for about an hour.

When the hour is up, you should have a nice goldeny liquid filling the pot. Turn off the heat, and set a strainer over another large pot. Pour the broth into this second pot so that the vegetables get strained out and you're just left with the liquid (you can also just use some of the broth right then and put the vegetables in it for a simple soup).

Whatever part of the broth you don't use immediately, you can store in the refrigerator for a few days or else freeze it as mentioned above. It's a good idea to let the broth come to room temperature before putting it directly into the refrigerator or the freezer.

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