Taking Stock – Making Stock

Writing this post feels like the multi-tasking tangle that often accompanies cooking itself, with two intermingled things to do (or describe). Karyn, Red Dog farmer, suggested “Roasted Delicata and Steamed Chard with Sautéed Leeks and Garlic” in a recent CSA newsletter, calling the meal a “straightforward but delicious fall combination” – and she provided all the ingredients.

I put the squash to roast – using a beat up baking pan, buffered with parchment paper. (My clever friend’s husband once found me scraping at some vegetable, which roasted onto a pan and asked, “Don’t you know about parchment paper?” So now I do – and use it often to make life easier). I smished around a little olive oil, halved the squash, and scraped out the seeds.

At the same time, I noticed Karyn’s second newsletter suggestion – a rutabaga soup. But it called for stock, and usually I fail to make stock. The taste of purchased vegetable stock disappoints me, so I use water or avoid such soups.

But then I remembered using squash seeds in stock (a Deborah Madison hint most likely). I set the seeds aside, chopped the leeks, and realized that parts of the leeks could also go in stock – along with the chard ribs.

I got out Deborah and got serious.

Her quick stock essentials are to sauté an onion, a carrot, and a celery rib – along with “useful trimmings” (taking stock of what’s in the fridge). I’m already well begun.

I sautéed the roughly cut leek leaves and root ends, the chard stems, and a carrot in a little olive oil. After 10 minutes or so, I added two teaspoons of salt and two quarts of water and brought to it a boil with a bay leaf. I tossed the squash seeds in, strings and all, and simmered uncovered for about 30 minutes.

While the stock simmered I steamed the chard, then added it to sautéed leeks and garlic. I found a container of cranberries in the freezer, chopped almost the last apples from the columnar tree, and simmered them together with just a little sugar.

The chard was melt-in-your mouth good – also the squash – the cranberries a perfect tart note. And the stock smelled terrific. I strained it after dinner and the next day made the soup.

Now at our house rutabaga isn’t any more enthusiastically embraced than elsewhere. (Rutabaga used to be what we called the kind of noisy, vibrating kiss you’d plant on a really sweet baby’s belly – we had two in their time – sure to stir up a giggle from the recipient.)

The soup was wonderful – the stock-based broth delicious, the small chunks of rutabaga transformed into tasty bites, like squash but sweeter. Why don’t I make stock more often? Doing it while making dinner seems the answer – approved multi-tasking.

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