Monday, March 11, 2013
Hi all, just a quick one from me today. We are about half-way into our trip back home and are currently staying with my mum and little sister in a teeny tiny little sea-side town on the East Coast of New Zealand. We've been eating loads of freshly picked figs from the tree that hangs over mums fence, so I'm hoping to find a spare second to come up with a recipe using them and will share it on here in the next few days. But until then I'd like to leave you in the hands of another of my talented blogging friends, Shanna from Food Loves Writing. Shanna has such a beautiful way with words, shares my views on eating 'real' food and shares loads of recipes that tickle my fancy, like Coconut Milk Mexican Flan and Roasted Onion Carrot soup with Dukkah. Thanks so much Shanna! ~Emm
I have this vivid memory from when I was a kid, out grocery shopping with my mom, strolling aisles of fluorescent lighting and elevator music. I had one hand on her wheeling cart and the other outstretched to touch snacks we passed, eyeing potential treats I wanted her to buy. Even though I liked groceries, I didn't like grocery shopping. Walking through a store filled with fun food just made me feel want. But then, right in the midst of my lower-elementary-school angst, it happened. Somewhere between the dairy case and the snack aisle, I spotted it: a shiny quarter on the floor, mine for the taking. I picked it up, clutched it to my chest and shouted.
"I can buy anything I want!" I told Mom, a smile on my face. I may have even jumped up and down.
Suddenly, with the discovery of a small coin, the world had changed. I was no longer merely a wanter; I was a buyer! I had money! What would I buy? Through the next aisles, I glanced anxiously at items, trying to find the one I'd select. Fruit snacks? Granola bars? Candy? It took time before I began reading the price tags and comparing them with what I had in my hand. Only then did disappointment strike. By the time we left the grocery store, I'd learned what some would call a valuable lesson and what I would call a loss of innocence: Now I knew $0.25 wouldn't buy more than a candy sample from the bulk bins. Also, in most of life, you can't get something from nothing.
Except that is, my friends, in the kitchen, when you make yourself some homemade vegetable stock.
Truth is, it would be decades after my grocery discovery when I'd finally see exceptions to the nothing's-free rule: daily sunrises on the evil and the just, which come, undeserved, faithfully each morning; sweet, sweet sleep, the kind of thing you cannot see the value of as a child but come to treasure as an adult, busy and harried and tired; the undeserved kindness of a husband who loves me steady as a mountain range and still surprises me; and, finally, the pure and simple magic of making vegetable stock, a veritable kitchen treasure made of nothing more than water, time and leftover vegetable scraps you were going to throw away---things like onion peels, broccoli stems, tips of carrots, roots of celery.
I first learned about the beauty of homemade vegetable stock in Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, a life-changing cookbook if ever there was one. When she described saving all the scrappy vegetable bits I've always tossed and combining them to make a stock, my mouth fell open. Of course! Why hadn't I thought of this?
And from that point forward, this is what I always do, less a recipe and more of a habit:
Every day, when I'm cooking---chopping onions, slicing carrots, tearing apart cauliflower florets---I keep a container or bag nearby to throw the scraps in. Stems, leaves, ends and so on all get thrown together and tossed in the fridge or freezer. Then every week or so, I throw all those saved scraps in a large pot and cover it with water, bringing it to a boil. I reduce the water to a simmer and let it reduce for hours, adding water as it disappears. At the end of four to six hours, I strain the now discardable vegetables, sapped of all their nutrient glory, and save the liquids in the fridge. I don't even season it---I save that for when the stock gets used.
That's it. Easy as can be. Practically free. And a treasure the next time you're making a soup or sauce or risotto that calls for stock and you realize you already have it on hand; or a recipe that calls for a great deal of water and you think of your flavorful vegetable stock instead.
It's not as exciting as a quarter that buys you anything you want in a grocery story---but to the eyes of this adult, I'd say it's pretty close.
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