I don't know how I'll ever manage to live outside of California, knowing that we are so spoiled for choice here in terms of fresh produce — even in the winter. I've really been enjoying going to the farmers' market on Sundays and filling up my bag with eggs, blood oranges, turnips, carrots, chard, kale, leeks, mushrooms, raw cheese, and bread. If I were living in freezing cold Minnesota or Virginia? No such luck.
To celebrate, in a way, the bounty of winter here on the west coast, I made a giant pot of roasted vegetable broth. Because, in all honesty, the kind you get in a can or box just doesn't taste very good. I started by roasting a variety of root veggies, onions, and garlic, then tossed them into a pot with a huge amount of trimmings and otherwise wasted vegetable parts: green carrot tops, red onion skins, shiitake mushroom stems, and the green part of leeks. I threw some water over it all, added some pepper and soy sauce, simmered for a while, and voila! It tastes great as a base for a winter vegetable stew or to cook brown rice in. It's also quite lovely just in a bowl, with a poached egg floating in it. As a bonus, it made the apartment smell wonderful.
Alice Waters, in The Art of Simple Food, has convinced me (even further than usual) that if you can do it better yourself, using high-quality ingredients you can feel good about using, why not take a little time to cook? Reading her cookbook has inspired me to start cooking more and start making ice cream and baking bread again.
Roasted Vegetable Stock
(adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
1 leek, well-washed, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks, with tops removed and reserved (if available)
1 celery stalk, cut into chunks
1 parsnip or turnip, cut into chunks
6 cloves garlic
whatever veggie leftovers you might have lying around (I often save bits that might be good to put into broth)
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried thyme (obviously, you can use fresh herbs, but I didn't have any on hand)
1/4 c soy sauce
10 black peppercorns
1/2 c white wine
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine olive oil, leeks, carrots, celery, parsnip, and garlic in a large roasting pan, and toss to coat. Put the pan in the oven, stirring occasionally and turning everything at least once until everything is browned, about 45 minutes.
Put this mixture into a large stockpot, then add the extra veggie trimmings, herbs, soy sauce, peppercorns, wine, and 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and turn down the heat so the water is at a bare simmer. Cook until the veggies are very soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Strain, pressing on the vegetables to squeeze out all the juice. Taste and season as necessary.
Makes 3 quarts, give or take.