Posted (Lori) in News


The vegetables we are getting this week, along with a few leftovers from last week, will make a great vegetable stock. Using stock instead of water in soups and to cook other vegetables gives everything a more complex taste. There are many variations of vegetable stocks; this is a simple one that works:

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 garlic clove, diced

1 medium onion or 2 shallots, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 large celery stalks, with leaves, chopped

2 potatoes

Other possible additions: parsnip, turnip, squash

2-4 tablespoons chopped herbs, any combination

Salt and pepper to taste (or leave out the salt and pepper, and add when you use the stock in recipes)

Heat the oil in a large pot; add the garlic and sauté until it is fragrant.

Add the onion/shallot, carrots, and celery and stir until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes (Onions, carrots, and celery cooked this way are called mirepoix; they are sometimes added to soups and stews as flavor enhancers.) Add 4 quarts of water; continue to cook, covered, for about an hour, over medium heat until all the vegetables are soft. Then add the potato and cook for another hour.

Check every 30 minutes or so; if scum forms on the top, skim it off. If water evaporates, add more.

Add the herbs and salt and pepepr, taste and adjust. Allow to cool, then strain. I think the cooked vegetables can be used—but I usually toss them. Store the strained stock—some people strain a few times to get the clearest stock possible, but I’m not that fussy—in tightly closed containers. It will last a couple of weeks in the fridge, a couple of months in the freezer.


Basic Version

The standard mirepoix recipe calls for two parts onion to one part each celery and carrot.  I’m working on a piece about basic soups and stews for next week—these flavor enhancers can be used for all of them.

A small quantity of tomato paste is frequently added for color and flavor if the mirepoix is intended for brown stocks, sauces or stews. For white sauces, leeks are generally substituted for the carrot.


It’s important to dice the vegetables as uniformly as possible to ensure even cooking. The size of the dice can vary according to overall cooking time of the dish for which it is intended. The shorter the cooking time the smaller the dice.

Cooking the vegetables in butter over a relatively low heat until they start to give off their juices and the onion turns translucent is called sweating. If you cover your pan during cooking, the process is then called smothered.

For rich flavor and deep color, prepare your mirepoix as follows: Start your onions and carrots first and cook until they begin to brown. Add the celery and continue cooking until it softens and its color becomes a brighter green. Stir in a small amount of tomato paste and cook until the entire mixture develops a rich brown color. This technique is referred to as pincage.

Beyond French Cuisine

There are a number of international variations on the French mirepoix. The Cajun trinity substitutes green pepper for the carrot and is used to flavor dishes like gumbos and etouffees.

The Italians have a similar combination called soffritto. They substitute olive oil for the butter and often add garlic and some pancetta or prosciutto to the mix. A Spanish sofrito consists of onions, tomatoes, garlic and parsley cooked in olive oil.

In Cajun cooking, a sweet pepper is added to the mix; hot peppers are sometimes added as well.

The concept is also used in the cuisines of Asia. Many Indian dishes start with a combination of onion, garlic, ginger and some variety of hot pepper. In Thailand, curry pastes begin with a combination of lemongrass, shallots and chiles. The list could go on and on.

Worth the Effort

In summary, the little extra time it takes to introduce a base of aromatic vegetables to your finished dishes can make a world of difference in the overall depth of flavor.

Here’s Lee’at’s favorite kale recipe:

My favorite kale salad is very simple: slice lacinato kale very thin, pour on some olive oil, then massage the kale for a minute until it is softer and shiny. Add lemon juice, salt, a little minced onion or shallot, and crumbled feta cheese.

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