How's everybody's weekend going so far? Ours has been quite relaxing, although I do end up going back to work today (I've had the last 3 days off work, and they were definitely needed!).

A good stock, whether it be chicken, beef, or vegetable, can be the basis for many great dishes and sauces.  I actually prefer a vegetable stock over the animal-based because 1) it's the easiest, 2) it's the quickest, and 3) it's the cheapest!

You can definitely use a variety of vegetable combinations, but don't think that more is always better.  Sometimes you can even just use a handful of vegetables and it will turn out great.  If you try to incorporate too many vegetables though, you'll end up with something that's not versatile enough for you to use with everyday dishes.

Vegetables that I'd avoid using for vegetable stock would be asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and bitter greens.  These are strongly flavored and would overpower your stock if you wanted to make it all-purpose.  Also, starchy vegetables like potatoes should be avoided because they can cloud up your stock – unless clarity isn't an issue.  Then by all means, go for the potatoes!

I like the following formula because it has everyday vegetables that I usually have in my crisper drawer.  Feel free to change things up to develop a stock that's right for you!

Ingredients:
(Makes 2 quarts)

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots
4 celery ribs
1 large onion
1 leek, washed
1 bulb of fennel, fronds cut off
1 large turnip
1 large tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
small handful of black peppercorns (maybe 1/2 teaspoon?)
about 14 parsley stems

Now, one thing about stocks.  A lot of recipes make you dice up your vegetables before you put them in.  I used to do that.  And then I worked at a restaurant.  We never dice them up.  At most, we quarter the vegetables.  It's quicker and you end up with the same result.  And it helps with the straining process.  So depending on your time and whether you want to work on your knife skills, you can forgo the small dicing of your vegetables.  A quick chop to make them manageable in the pot is good enough.

Heat your oil under medium high heat in a large stockpot.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, leek, fennel, turnip, and tomato to the pot.  Let the vegetable cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine, water, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and parsley stems.

Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Take off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Strain and package up into individual containers (I did 4 pints).  Label and date.  Store in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  If you store it in the freezer, you want to thaw it slowly under cool running water.

So what would you use your vegetable stock for?

Have a great rest of your weekend guys!