soup stock: the worshippers and the scoffers

my old pal mel (you may recognize her from her cooler, hipper, more frequently updated blog, magic in real life) was tickled pink by  my mention of making my own soup stock.  call me a purist, but homemade soup stock is the! and it IS really easy.

everything i know about making soup stock, i learned from “The Greens Cookbook,” an awesome vegetarian cookbook that offers not just excellent recipes but also great seasonal menu planning tips, and a short essay on anything you’d ever want to know about cooking vegetarian food. all that in just 388 pages. this cookbook, plus madhur jaffrey’s “World Vegetarian” helped me understand how to make vegetarian food taste yummy. i spent a good hour reading and re-reading the five page guidelines to every aspect of making your own stock, including a subchapter entitled “Elements of Stock–How They Work and What They Do.” The Greens Cookbook provides four detailed stock recipes, all of which list about 15-19 ingredients.

here’s my easier-to-follow interpretation.


basic ingredients:




commonly used: onions, leeks, carrots and celery

also great:

winter squash skins and seeds; chard/kale/greens and stems

tomatoes- for acidity, tartness

mushrooms for great flavor, especially if sauteed in oil/butter first. i like using dried mushrooms for stock. great, woody flavor and great base for asian soups (eg ramen) or any sort of mushroom soup.

surprising: lettuce- apparently adds great flavor, and a good use for bruised leaves.

problematic vegetables” ( i use the cookbook’s language here)

cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach, carrot tops, onion skins.


herbs! parsley (entire stems/bunches of stems); oregano, basil, marjoram; thyme; bay leaves;

other great stock ingredients: lentils (great for a deeper, meaty flavor. use a handful.) potatoes; corn cobs; miso, tamari and/or soy; salt


1) whenever cooking with vegetables, save all scraps in a ziploc bag. make this bag your cooking buddy. fresh herb and kale/chard stems;  mushroom stems; bruised pieces/bits/scraps, potato, squash tomato, apple skins; carrot skins; leek leaves; vegetables that have sat in your fridge for too long but aren’t smelly or rotten– all of it. throw it in the ziploc bag and keep that bag in the freezer. you will quickly accumulate a big old stock base.

2) heat 2 tbsp butter or oil in a wide pot, sautee an onion in it; add 1 tsp each of any dried herbs you want to use: thyme/oregano/parsley and 2 bay leaves;  a couple cloves of garlic; 1 tsp salt. then add one cup of water. let this cook down for about 15 minutes. then throw in atleast two cups/handfuls of veggie scraps.

if you feel like it throw in chunks of celery, onion, potato, lentils, and/or carrots. i am cheap, and making stock for me is a way to get the most use out of a vegetable, so i never do this. i just throw in a few handfuls of veggie scraps. (my faves are butternut squash, sweet potato, kale stems, and shiitake mushrooms!)

3) add 7-8 cups water. bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. halfway through add salt to taste (or miso or soy). for a more concentrated flavor add more vegetables or let cook down. to use, pour the stock into a bowl through a sieve.

takeaway: the only rules in making a decent stock are to use enough salt, butter/oil, some (parts of) vegetables, and some herbs! 

i’ll end with a very fitting quote from a  review of the cookbook. on the topic of soup stock, mel and i apparently represent both ends of the spectrum.

“Since its original publication in 1987, this delicately designed book has pushed its many readers into two camps: the worshippers and the scoffers. Perfect, some say; this is the comprehensive book for a fully vegetarian way of cooking. Hair-tearing, say others; this is the fool’s guide to spending way too many hours in the kitchen. They’re both right, of course.” 


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