We hate to begin a recipe for vegetable broth with a glowing disquisition on meat, so we won’t, but one thing is certain: cooking vegetables can be much tougher than cooking meat. Throw a chop in a skillet and get the prelude to a pan sauce with bronzed drippings and juices. Simmer fleshy bones in water and be rewarded, for only modest effort, with a couple of quarts of liquid gold in the form of stock, the foundation of flavor depth and body in virtually every dish.
Draw vegetables into a meal’s leading role, however, and you often discover a labor to return ratio that is the inverse of meat’s. It’s also six hours later. But should you wish, for reasons of personal ethics, health, or preference, to create vegetarian dishes, dishes of light, singing delicacy, dishes that rise to the task of flavor layering, a fine homemade vegetable broth is the first and most crucial step.
Don’t think you can buy your way out of this one: canned or boxed vegetable broth is even more vile and bogus than the commercial version of chicken broth—if that is possible. And though it may seem crazy to relegate so many fine, upstanding vegetables to the compost pile, it won’t seem crazy when you taste a simple plate of broccoli florets, flash-simmered and infused with this broth, then finished with olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Or when your next vegetable soup looks not in vain to water for flavor. Or when you taste our Carolina Gold Rice Grits Cakes.