Make your own soup stock (Vegan)

So many recipes call for soup stock and the store-bought kind is boring and sodium-tastic. Make your own! It’s easy and it will make all of your recipes vastly more delicious. The trick is just to try new things, remember what works, write it down, and pair it wisely with the other ingredients in the dish you are cooking. More on that in a moment. First, how to make a stock:

  • Put a lot of water in a large pot
  • Bring the water to a boil
  • Throw in a lot of vegetables, scraps of vegetables, and/or their parts. For instance, corn cobs & onion skins are great in stocks, in case you didn’t know. So you don’t need to do a lot of cutting or peeling or prepping. Just chop things roughly, enough so that they fit in the pot and have exposed parts through which to leak their juices
  • Simmer everything for about an hour or so
  • Add salt and pepper while simmering, to taste

When the stock is done, allow to cool and then pour through a strainer to separate the vegetable parts from the stock. This will probably require doing it in batches. Discard the vegetables and refrigerate or freeze the stock until it’s ready for use.

What kind of vegetables can go in a stock? Pretty much anything you want, though some veggies are more reliable than others. Some general guidelines:

#1 – Follow the rules of compost: No citrus. No fats. Nothing diseased or spoiled.

Whenever possible, use onion, celery, carrots, thyme and garlic. As much or as little of any of these, but some combination thereof. For the garlic, just smash the clove, no need to peel or press it. I take a blunt object and crack it a couple of times. I usually throw in 4 large cloves per 5 qt stockpot.

Other strong contributors to stock excellence include: potatoes (any variety), brussel sprouts, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, beets, parsley, corn, parsnips, mushrooms, zucchini, and … ??? Totally up to you and what you’re willing to experiment with.

Now. As for the pairing of stock with recipe. Basically I just taste it and imagine what it would complement. It’s not hard. It may seem weird, and some of you who are sensory-challenged may be fearful, but trust me. You really can tell by the taste of a stock what its purpose in life is. And most of the time, stock is so mild, all it can do is enhance, not detract. Just be mindful of the ingredients you’re dealing with, and I am confident you’ll be happy with your results.

Esquites, aka Mexican Street Corn (Vegan)

Oh, I do love me some esquites. The less messy-to-eat sibling of elote(Mexican style corn on the cob), esquites takes a delicious treat and puts it in a bowl or cup so that the people who love it more than words can express are able to eat twice as much twice as fast in huge spoonfuls. MMMMMMMMMM.

From Tlazolcalli cucina

Mmmmmmsquites (pic from Tlazolcalli cucina)

Unfortunately, authentic esquites is made with a million pounds of butter and has about a Jesus-kabillion calories. And baby, that just ain’t cool.

So, here’s my vegan version, which boasts zero butter and a totally non-biblical proportion of calories. Easy to make, low fat, low cal and fun at parties. What more could you want?

Esquites

  • Corn from 4 cobs (around 3 cups) – if you haven’t cut corn from the cob, watch a quick tutorial. (If necessary, you can also use frozen or canned corn.)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp serrano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp vegan mayo
  • Salt to taste

Heat a medium size frying pan or sauce pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat a few moments longer until oil is hot. Combine the corn and pepper and stir until evenly coated with oil. Heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until corn becomes fragrant. Squeeze in juice from one lime. If it’s not a very juicy lime, consider adding another. Add cayenne and a bit of salt and taste. If necessary, add more salt and cayenne and mix well.

At this point, you have a choice. You could serve it as is, which I personally find delicious, or you could complete the last step of adding the mayo. If you add the mayo, it will obviously be differently delicious, and most people probably prefer it that way. And it’s also more true to the authentic esquites experience. However, not including a barrel of butter is totally inauthentic, so don’t kid yourself too much.

Oh, one last thing. If you want the corn to have a more “roasted” flavor and appearance, you can start by searing it, removing it from heat, and then proceeding through the steps described above.

Basil Guacamole (Vegan)

Consider adding basil to your guacamole. It adds a lovely dimension of freshness. Or if you’d prefer not, omit the basil and just have guacamole. Either way, here’s a quick and easy recipe.

Basil Guacamole

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1/3 c. red onion, chopped and rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp serrano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or rubbed on the mixing apparatus (see Notes)
  • 1 -2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and twist apart, removing the seeds. Scoop out insides with a spoon and mash the avocado coarsely with a fork. Add salt in 1/8 tsp increments until there’s a balance of bite and richness (usually I end up adding about 1/2 to 1 tsp total, depending on the size of the avocados).

Add the juice of one lime – if it’s a super juicy lime, maybe just use half; if it’s a dryer lime, maybe use up to two. You’re going to have to taste and see; the result should be tangy but not sour.

Stir in the onion, pepper and garlic, if applicable (again, see Notes). Add the basil last and serve immediately.

Notes

Regarding the garlic. We usually make guacamole in a molcajete, a sort of mortar and pestle-likeĀ  kitchen tool used in Mexican cooking. When making guac with a molcajete, we rub one peeled clove all over the bowl of it, and that infuses the guac with flavor while mixing, such that additional garlic isn’t necessary. If you’re not using a molcajete, just add minced garlic towards the end. Delicious either way.

Fresh Flower Ravioli (Vegetarian)

So. I adapted this from a recipe I found in an aphrodisiac cookbook that I bought at the Haight Street Goodwill in San Francisco. Man, does that sound smarmy!!! Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be creepy by buying a (used – ewww!) aphrodisiac cookbook, it just so happened to be focused on a number of my favorite ingredients: mushrooms, avocado, asparagus, artichokes, chili pepper, etc. Are all these foods aphrodisiacs? Color me skeptical. Meanwhile, if you’re wondering why I was at the Haight Street Goodwill, it’s because I had fled to San Francisco to visit my bestie while J was gone in an attempt to take my mind off his absence. And I just so happened to be in the Haight. And I love thrift stores. And if you’re wondering why I made this so-called aphrodisiac recipe while J was gone, it was because I wanted to see if it was any good before spending the time to make it for both of us. Not for aphrodisiac purposes, mind you, just for dinner. Come on people, my parents might be reading this! Anyway, don’t judge me. Eat some flower ravioli and give peace a chance.

Fresh Flower Ravioli

  • 24 wanton wraps (Note: Wanton wraps are not vegan.)
  • 8 c. vegetable broth
  • 8 oz edible flowers, chopped, stems removed (They sell these in the herb section at most organic markets and also often at farmer’s markets.)
  • 2 tbsp basil sliced width-wise (This is called a chiffonade, in case you’re interested.)
  • Water in a small prep bowl (You will use this to seal the ravioli with your fingertips.)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or a bit of olive oil (if desired)
  • Additional herbs if desired
  • Grated Parmesan to taste

Have the bowl of water nearby. Take a wanton wrap and arrange a small amount of the herbs & blossoms in the center (about a teaspoon or a pinch or two). Fold the wrap over to form a triangle pouch around the flowers. Dip your fingers in water and press the wrap edges firmly together. Run your finger along the edges to seal them. Fold the outer corners inwards if necessary to create a good seal (it will look a bit like a wanton – hey, that’s why they call them wanton wraps). Repeat this until you have about 24 triangles (creates two servings).

Meanwhile, boil the vegetable broth in a large pot. When the broth is boiling, drop in 12 triangles and boil for about three minutes. Lift out quickly with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the remaining triangles. When the triangles are done, you may brush them with melted butter or olive oil using a basting brush, if desired. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.