I figured that so long as I was trying to make chicken stock, and so long as I had some scraps and spare vegetables from other recipes, and a fridge drawer full of some veggies I wouldn’t necessarily be using quickly (the place where my boyfriend works trades goods with a local farmer, so he bought me what they got in trade), I may as well try my hand at making some vegetable stock. 

(I still have a drawer with a large bag of beets and some patty pan squashes and a zucchini that I could probably use as an assault weapon. Seeking suggestions.)

Some tips for making veggie stock that I got from both this recipe and a good friend: 

  • don’t use carrot tops (they make it bitter)
  • beets will give it a weird color
  • don’t salt your stock (since you don’t know the salt levels of what recipes you’re using it in might call for)
  • only simmer your stock for 120 mins (2 hours) tops, as the stock doesn’t have collagen in it that needs to develop like a meat stock

And generally, your recipe for this is gonna vary heavily, depending on whatever you have available. I used leeks and leftover leek ends, some spare carrots, shallots, parmesan rinds, peppercorns, garlic, kale, and a patty pan squash.  Honestly, just save your veggie scraps from whatever you might’ve been making, and use those. 

Also? This is gonna make a lot. I used half of that big container (six cups) in an upcoming recipe. I’m gonna have enough for a damn long time. 

Vegetable Stock

Ingredients

  • whatever vegetable scraps/leftover vegetables from other recipes you might have on hand (see above for what all I used this time, and for what not to use)
  • parmesan rinds (seriously, these add a great flavor)
  • bay leaf
  • small handful of peppercorns
  • peeled garlic cloves, maybe a shallot
  • water
  • (original recipe recommends herbs of choice and sea salt, honestly, you don’t need much more than the above)

In a large pot, take your vegetables/vegetable scraps, parmesan rinds, bay leaf, peppercorns, peeled garlic cloves and shallot, and cover completely with water. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer, and simmer for an hour and a half to two hours, until the stock looks similar to picture 3. Take a slotted spoon, scoop the boiled veggies out, and then run the soup through a strainer, to catch whatever may have been missed by the slotted spoon. 

Put the stock in a storage container, and depending on what you’re going to do with it, either use immediately, toss in the fridge for a few days, or store in the freezer for long term use. 

Looking for a new way to try your vegetables? Just add beer and bacon!  Seriously. I found the green beans for a buck a pound on special last week, and it turns out Ale Asylum (a local brewer) just put out a new stout, so this was perfect timing in several senses. 

Stout Glazed Green Beans and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 lbs green beans (note to self: reduce to 1 lb for the future, 2 lb was way too much)
  • .5 c stout (I used Ale Asylum’s Big Slick stout)
  • pinch smoked paprika, salt, and pepper

Cook your bacon in a pan to desired doneness. Remove, let cool, and chop. 

Add your green beans to the pan, and sear until slightly browned. Then, pour your stout in, drink the rest of the bottle, and cook until the beer reduces into a glaze (about ten minutes or so). Sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and chopped bacon, and toss in a serving dish to combine!

This soup is one of my fall mainstays, especially when the veggies in it come into season.  That massive eggplant only cost me a buck twenty five at the farmer’s market, and the tomatoes were two bucks, tops. Good veggies + roasting = amazing results, especially in a soup.  I did the spicier riff that Deb recommends at the end of the recipe, and substituted the feta for the goat cheese, and the results are absolutely amazing.

Roasted Eggplant Soup
Lasts 5+ lunches

Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large eggplant, halved
  • 10 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • enough olive oil to drizzle on all of the above
  • 4 c vegetable stock (get a 32 oz box of stock, there will be enough)
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • one large dash coriander, cumin
  • some red pepper flakes
  • accidentally a bit of spanish paprika
  • 1 onion, halved
  • .25 c heavy whipping cream
  • .75 c (3.5 oz) feta crumbles

Preheat your oven to 400 (375 if it runs hot), and place your eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic on a lined baking sheet, and drizzle olive oil over all, until they’re reasonably covered (see pic one for what I did).  Place in the oven for 20 mins, and then remove your garlic cloves (they’ll burn otherwise) and put the tomatoes and eggplant in for another 25 minutes.  Your tomatoes and eggplant should look like picture 2 by the end of the 45 minutes.  Scoop the eggplant flesh out of the skin, and put in a saucepan with your tomatoes and garlic, and add the vegetable stock, spices, and onion.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for another 45 minutes, until your onion halves are very tender.

Blend the soup in batches (because trust me, you don’t want hot stock and veggie bits all over your kitchen, that’s happened to me trying to do that) until it’s smooth, and then add it back to the pot.  Add your cream and bring it back to a low simmer before stirring in your feta.

Please note that the spices in this were pure guesswork, and feel free to use your own variations – the original recipe does not include the cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, or the paprika, and doesn’t use the cream and substitutes goat cheese crumbles for feta.  I just like the resulting soup and texture way better this way.  😛

Our growing season this year seems to be off by about three weeks – normally, sugar snap peas would be showing up closer to the beginning of June rather than the end of it.  But hey, they’re finally showing up, so I’m not complaining.  Especially when it means that I get to try this awesome recipe.  I did this first last summer, and the resulting pickles are effing amazing. 

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas
Makes 2 jars pickled peas

Ingredients

  • 1.25 c white vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 1.25 c cold water
  • 1 lb sugar snap peas
  • several cloves garlic, sliced

Heat the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a nonreactive pot over medium heat  until the sugar and salt are dissolved, stirring occasionally.  As soon as this happens, remove from heat and add your cold water, to speed the brine’s cooling.  

While it cools, destem and destring your pea pods, and put in your jars (or bowl), with the sliced garlic in between the layers.  As soon as the brine is cool, pour the brine over them in the jars, and seal with caps.

Two weeks is the sweet point for them, tender and crunchy, with the perfect amount of brine absorbed – but, they are ready to eat after 24 hours.  Depends on how hungry you are, really.  😉

Garden progress, at about week #2!

l to r: Strawberry bucket, garlic pot #1, cherry tomatoes, garlic pot #2, mint pot (peppermint and chocolate mint), basil pot (genovese), onion pot (started about two days ago).

The idea here is to hopefully be able to use this to replace some of my grocery expenses, once they really get producing. The basil and strawberries, I’ll pretty much be able to use right away, once fully ripe (and the strawberries are everflowering, so I should have a good supply all throughout the summer). (Plus, once I get a few good ripe ones, I’ll show you my trick to keep strawberries ripe and fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks post picking.)  The cherry tomatoes and mint and garlic are definitely producing, but they’re not quite ripe, so they’ll be a bit of a delay. I can’t tell if the onion regrowth is working (you’re supposed to be able to stick the root end in after you cut it from the main veggie, and regrow in perpetua), but odds are with the amount of rain we’ve had we’ll know soon enough.

I’m going to check and see if there’s anything else I get on a regular basis that can be regrown from scraps/cuttings (laundry basket potatoes and ginger have been suggested), and may add from there.  But otherwise, yay gardening!

So, potstickers continue to reinforce two things for me.  One, that I will never win anything that involves making my cooking pretty (see the bottom photo for evidence of this). Two, that while I may start a recipe to try to invoke a zen state of calm (see: folding potstickers, which takes patience and a hell of a lot of time), I will likely end up getting impatient about halfway through and attempting to find a way that works better – in this case, double wrappers, and making the final wrapped product look more like shumai more than potstickers.  And trust me, this recipe takes a pretty long time; total time for me was something around an hour and a half to two hours.

As your farmers markets are coming into season, be sure to check there for your vegetables.  For the most part, you can get some hella good deals on fresh veggies, and they taste better.  Witness: when peas inevitably come into season out here, I’ll be buying several pounds worth (one of the stalls sells them pre-shelled) and freezing them for future use.  For now, though, I used grocery store asparagus (which was way more expensive than the stuff I picked up yesterday) and frozen peas.

General note: I skipped the scallions and chives, here, as they aren’t quite in season at the farmers market (where they’re typically a buck for a large bunch), and they’re expensive otherwise around here.

Spring Vegetable Potstickers 
Makes between 25 to 50 potstickers (depending on if you single or double wrap them)

Ingredients: 

Potsticker Filling: 

  • 3 to 3.25 c of spring veggies (SK suggests asparagus, fava or lima beans, peas; I chopped up about ¾ lb of asparagus and used 2/3rds of a 16 oz bag of frozen peas)
  • 1 T neutral cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 oz tofu, chopped small (about half of a 12 oz package)
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ t salt

To Assemble and Cook: 

  • 1 T cornstarch and ½ c water
  • 1 package dumpling wrappers (I got wonton wrappers, and that gave about 50 wrappers, but they were too thin; SK had success with mandu wrappers.  Look for dumpling wrappers, or, if you’re more crazy than me, make your own!)
  • 1-2 T more of the neutral cooking oil mentioned above
  • ¼ to ½ c water

Dipping Sauce: 

  • ¼ c rice vinegar
  • ¼ c soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil

Prep your veggies (I recommend googling best prep methods depending on what you have; for asparagus, I chopped up the stalks, and if they were thicker, sliced them in half and chopped those up, and the peas I left whole).  Add 1 T of oil to your pan, and heat to medium. Once that’s ready, add your veggies in order of time it’ll take to get them crisp and cooked through. Asparagus typically takes about 4 mins, and peas 2 to 3 mins (a bit longer if you’re using frozen, like I was). Once they’re done, add the tofu, and cook for about a minute more, and season with salt and remove to a separate bowl, and mix with the sesame oil.  

SK recommends draining off excess moisture; I ended up not doing so.  Don’t think it made that much difference in the final product. If the mixture is still too thick, chop it up (DO NOT PUREE) using a knife and a cutting board, or a blender.  Mine was mostly peas, chopped asparagus, and tofu, along with minced/chopped ginger and garlic, so I left it like it was.  Might chop it up next time. 

To assemble, have a tray ready to put your finished potstickers on (I used a pizza sheet and didn’t oil it, though SK recommends either oiling or parchment paper).  Mix the water and cornstarch, which will be your glue for the wrappers. Have a plate next to your bowl of filling. Once you open your package of wrappers, either use plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to keep the wrappers from drying out.  I didn’t use it, but they didn’t dry out, for the most part.

To assemble your potstickers, brush a wrapper with the cornstarch/water mixture, and set it on the plate. Scoop ½ T of filling (I typically used about a T, and that was a bit too much) onto the center of the wrapper.  Now, SK has a pretty solid picture guide for how to attempt to seal and crease the wrappers.  I tried doing this with single wrappers, then double wrappers, but they never quite worked for me.  The method I ended up going with for the last half or so of the potstickers was to fold the four corners to the center and pinch them shut, and then put that wrapper in the middle of another wet one and do the same, sealing shut with the cornstarch/water mixture. Do whatever works best for you.  😛  Do this until you run out of wrappers, and after that’s done, you can either freeze them for later cooking, or cook them right away. You may have leftover mixture; if it’s still mostly whole like mine, keep it as a side!  Otherwise, save and freeze for future use. I also had leftover tofu, and will likely be using it to make Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce.  

Once you’re ready to make your potstickers, heat up your skillet (yes, I used it the same one I used to make the filling, just cleaned it out after) with the oil to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the potstickers in a single layer and cook until the bottom is browned (at least a minute or two). Add water (smaller amt for a smaller batch, larger amt for a larger batch, which will hiss and sputter if it’s hot enough), and cover, cooking for 2 to 3 mins more.  Remove the lid, and simmer until any remaining water (there shouldn’t be a lot left) has simmered away.

Make your dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients.  If you’d like a sweeter sauce, add ½ t brown sugar or honey.

And then, freaking finally, EAT THEM.