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~ How to: Make a Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia ~

Vegetable Stock #1 (Intro Picture)Up until five years ago, unless I was entertaining one of my vegetarian friends, like my mixed-doubles tennis partner and close friend Bob, I always chose to use my homemade beef, chicken or veal stock when preparing my recipes.  Up until five years ago, I had a lovely vegetable stock recipe in my own repertoire, plus, had tasted my share of vegetable stocks in fine restaurants,  but, quite frankly, I always found them to be slightly lack luster and less than impressive.  To me, vegetable stock was nothing more than a necessary evil.  Then, in 2006, I had the pleasure to meet and work with cookbook author, owner of Filidia's restaurant in NYC, and, host of PBS's "Lidia's Italian Kitchen", Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

Lidia was visiting Penn State and Penn State's PBS station WPSU-TV for their annual Connoisseur's Dinner/fundraiser.  She was also doing a live cooking demonstration in front of an audience of about 100 people the morning of the event.  As WPSU's brand new cooking consultant, it was my job to prep all of her food for her demo and prepare all of the food their audience would taste.  This was the first time I ever met a real cooking celebrity, let alone worked with one, and there was no time for nervousness.  Lidia's menu consisted of items like Roasted Acorn Squash w/a Balsamic Reduction Syrup, Risotto w/Grana Padano Cheese and Apple Crisp Parfaits w/Freshly Whipped Cream.  For Lidia's risotto demonstration, she required several quarts of her vegetable stock recipe.  I'm here to tell you that her recipe changed my thoughts on  vegetable stock in general and how I could/should use it in my kitchen.

Her simple-to-prepare recipe is best described by me as golden-colored and full-flavored.  It didn't require roasting or caramelizing any of the vegetables (which culinarily has its place, but not in this application), wasn't weighed down with earthy mushrooms (which I don't always care for in vegetable stock) and used fresh lemon zest and red pepper flakes which gave it bright acidic flavor and peppery flair.  As Lidia points out in her book Lidia's Family Table, "all you need to make your own clean-flavored and cost-free stock is a saucepan, a few cups of water, a cup or two of fresh vegetable pieces and a few sprigs of herbs".  In true Italian tradition, this was a basic but flavorful homemade stock that could be used as a simple moistener (as in the case of risotto) or the base for any vegetarian soup.  In her book, Lidia lists ingredients to make her stock, but does not provide specific amounts for them, meaning:  there is no specific recipe, so, make a version of it that makes use of what you happen to have on hand and suits you.  The recipe I am going to share with you combines her list of ingredients using my quantities, or, the quantities that please my family's palate -- feel free to make your adjustments after trying it.

3  pounds yellow or sweet onion, peeled and left whole, cut in half or chunked 

1  pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1"-2" lengths

1/2-1  pound celery, rinsed and cut into 1"-2 " lengths

1/2  ounce garlic cloves, left whole, about 10 large garlic cloves

1 1/2  ounces lemon peel (no white pith, just yellow peel), strips taken from 2 lemons

1/2  teaspoon "Pepperoncino" (red pepper flakes)

1/2  ounce fresh parsley, rosemary or thyme sprigs

1  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2  tablespoons fine sea salt

enough of water to cover all ingredients to within 1" of the top of the pot

Vegetable Stock #2 (Prepped Ingredients in Pot) ~ Step 1.  Prep all of the ingredients as directed, placing them in an 8-quart stockpot as you work.







Vegetable Stock #3 (Water in Pot) ~ Step 2.  Add water to within 1" of the top of the pot.

Place on stovetop and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a gentle, but steady simmer.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours.

This being said:


Vegetable Stock #4 (Removing the Rosemary) ~ Step 3.  About 5 minutes into the simmering process, remove the rosemary or thyme sprigs.  The herb will have just lost its bright green color.  If you are using parsley, you can let it remain throughout the simmering process, but, if you leave the rosemary or the thyme in, their flavor will overpower the stock.

Vegetable Stock #6 (Reduction) ~ Step 4.  After 1 1/2 hours of gentle, steady simmering, the liquid will now be reduced to about 2" from the top of the pot.  Remove the stockpot from the heat, cover and let the stock steep for 1-2 hours.  This will truly develop the flavors.

Using a large slotted spoon, remove and discard the vegetables.  Ladle or pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into desired size food storage containers and use as directed. 

Vegetable Stock #8 (In Pyrex Containers Closeup)


How to:  Make Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia:  Recipe yields 3 1/2- 4 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large slotted spoon; fine mesh strainer; soup ladle (optional)

Vegetable Stock #9 (with Jar or Tomatoes) Cook's Note:  You can refrigerate this stock for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.  Note:  occasionally I like to add 1 pint of my home-canned tomatoes to this stock at the beginning of the 1 1/2 hour simmering process.  If you don't have home-canned tomatoes, one 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes will do just fine.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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