I am not a vegetarian but my girlfriend is and so I cook vegetarian dishes a great deal. I always use my own veggie stock and have settled on the veggie stock in Second Helpings from the Union Square Café (one of my favorite cookbooks). There is a TON of stuff in their stock including Savoy cabbage, butter lettuce, potato, tomato, and parsnip (the ingredient that I think really makes this stock great).
I like this one a lot but am always looking for a better one. I was wondering what recipes people use. If you make it up your self what items do you use in the stock and what do you avoid? Any interesting techniques used?
I don't remember where I got this technique (Cooks Illustrated maybe) but I usually toss whatever veggies I am using in a roasting pan with some olive oil, and ground pepper and roast the vegetables in the oven until they are browned. Remove the vegetables to the pot you are planning to use and deglaze the roaster with water or white wine and add this to the stock , add enough water to cover the vegetables and simmer.
When I gave up vegetarianism, I pretty much gave up vegetable stock. My palate and cooking have improved immensely since then, so I'm not sure about the following recommendation, but I used to use it a lot. I think the original recipe was from Laurel's Kitchen. Basically, the weird part was using yellow split peas. You take raw yellow split peas and cook them in oil for a few minutes with some garlic. Then you add a bunch of water and all the usual stock veggies (onions, carrots, leeks, potato, and yes, parsnips), bay leaf, salt, and on on, and simmer. The split peas gave a chicken-like quality to the broth that was very satisfying to someone who didn't have any real chicken to compare it to.
I will paraphrase what the impeccable James Peterson outlines in his book, Splendid Soups, for 2 quarts of vegetable stock:
2 unpeeled carrots, sliced
2 leeks (white & green parts), washed and sliced
The greens from 1 fennel bulb or the bulb itself [my ed.: round is better than oval], sliced
2 turnips, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced [presumably trimmed but not peeled, for color?]
3 unpeeled garlic cloves, halved
1 bunch of [flat/Italian] parsley or stems from 2 bunches
4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dried
1 bay leaf [Turkish/Mediterranean, not Californian]
1 cup mushroom stems
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 cup dry white wine
Put all but the last two ingredients into a 4 qt pot and add water to cover just barely [it is important that there not be too much water, though you can add water if too much evaporation occurs; a very approximate rule of thumb is a pint of liquid per pound of solids -- this is easier to achieve in a tall stockpot]. Uncovered, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a slow simmer and cover. After 30 minutes of simmering, add the last two ingredients and simmer 10 more minutes. Then strain through a medium mesh strainer [a chinois would be too fine, it seems] into a clean pot or heat-tolerant container. Let cool, uncovered [covering stocks while they cool makes them go sour for some reason], for an hour before refrigerating.