The foundation of any good soup recipe is its stock. You may have heard of a popular book called Chicken Soup for the Soul. I love the title! After all, chicken soup and other delicious soups are so deeply satisfying they do seem to nourish the soul. I can remember walking into my grandmother’s house and feeling calmed and relaxed by the rich aroma of her homemade chicken stock. Family recipes are often passed down through generations. Good, rich stock is made by slowly simmering the bones and meat of animals or fish with vegetables, or simply by simmering flavorful vegetables alone. Slow simmering helps extract the deep flavor and valuable nutrients from the marrow, bones and vegetables. This nourishing flavor is what the Japanese have long-called “Umami” —, a somewhat difficult-to-describe, savory flavor experience. During the cooler months, I have a simmering pot of broth on the stove just about every week. I use what I need and freeze plenty for summer use. My two favorite stocks are chicken and vegetable. Here is what I do.
Roots including carrots, parsnips or rutabaga, which imparts a strong flavor
Herbs including chives, parsley and cilantro
Greens including chard, bok choy or kale, which imparts a strong flavor
Aromatics including garlic, onions and ginger
Celery, fennel, zucchini, yellow squash and butternut squash
If you like fruit, stick with tomatoes!
Corn cobs (makes the broth really good!)
Altogether, you’ll want about 4 to 5 cups of veggies. Cover with water. Add seasonal fresh or dried herbs and simmer, covered, for an hour or two! Strain and discard the veggies. Use it up within 4 to 5 days, or freeze it for later use. Once you have a good, rich stock prepared, here are some ideas for how to use it:
As a base for soup, stew and chili.
In sauces for meats, roasts, tofu, tempeh and vegetables.
As a sauté for veggies in place of, or along with, butter or oil.
For steaming and braising vegetables.
For basting roast meats or vegetables.
For cooking whole grains such as rice or quinoa. Use just as much stock as you would water.
For drinking on its own with a meal, just before a meal, or as a snack. A personal favorite is hot, well-seasoned chicken stock with a splash of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime… absolutely delicious!!
If you’re in a time-crunch, make stock in a crockpot or consider purchasing an all-natural broth. Look for brands that are free of added chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors and MSG. Organic is best, if possible. Good stock keeps me warm all winter long! Do you make your own? Got a favorite recipe or family tradition? I would love to hear!