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Annie's tips for a fabulous vegetable stock.

Annie Sommerville

Annie Sommerville

Annie Somerville, the spirit behind noted vegetarian restaurant Greens in San Francisco, shares her favorite springtime meal, tips for cooking tofu and ways to flavor vegetable stock with FoodFit's Executive Chef Bonnie Moore.

FoodFit   What's your favorite springtime meal to make at home?
ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:
  Anything featuring asparagus. Grilling asparagus, making an asparagus soup, making pasta with asparagus. (See Season's Pick)
 

FoodFit   What's the best way to cook tofu?

ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:

  Probably the best thing to do is to marinate it in a vinaigrette, basically like the way you would marinate meat. If you do that to tofu, it pickles it to some degree and gives it flavor. And then if you grill it, it's wonderful.
 

FoodFit   How would you switch to cook vegetarian?

ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:

  If you want to switch over to being a vegetarian cook, don't feel like you have to go cold turkey. Don't think, okay, today I'm a carnivore, tomorrow I'm going to be a vegetarian. Ease into it. Think about what kinds of dishes you like to eat. Don't go to some cookbook that's got all kinds of wild recipes and using ingredients that you are unfamiliar with. Talk to your friends, go to the market, see what's in season. Try to go to markets where people are knowledgeable about produce and can help you make decisions. If you like taking cooking classes, take a few classes.
 

FoodFit   What steps can you take to make cooking easier?

ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:

 

People don't have the time to cook they might like to have. When I make the simplest dish at home I'm impressed with how much time it takes just to chop garlic or sauté some mushrooms for pasta.

So you have to maximize and the thing to do is to be thinking about your leftovers when you are preparing dishes with vegetables, beans, and grains. If you're grilling vegetables, put something extra on so that you can make it into a salad the next day. When I am cooking beans, I like to save the broth and freeze it for later.
 

FoodFit   What's some of your favorite kitchen gear?
ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:
 

I like to have a citrus strainer because I think that's a really good tool, really useful. That brings a lot of flavor into dishes. I have a lettuce spinner. It's also a good colander.
 

FoodFit   Tell us about making vegetable stock.
ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:
 

The number one rule is your vegetable stock is not your compost. For instance, if you're going to make a carrot soup, don't throw asparagus in your stock because it will taste like asparagus. Don't use members of the cabbage family in stock. They'll overpower everything else.
 

FoodFit   What else?
ANNIE
SOMMERVILLE:
 

I always add a little salt. I think salt is a very important ingredient in all cooking, particularly in stocks because it draws out the flavor, draws out the vegetables and helps them break down and start cooking.

Also, fresh herbs, sprigs and leaves, whole peppercorns, and if you are going to go in an Asian direction, lemongrass, fresh ginger, cilantro.
 

 
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Annie Somerville's Tips For Flavorful Vegetable Stock
  • Put vegetables in a stock pot with some salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and fresh herbs. Don't cut the vegetables too big.
  • Cover the ingredients with 8-9 cups of water, bring to a boil, then turn down to low and cook for about 40 minutes.
  • Pour through a strainer and press the vegetables. Apply a little bit of pressure with a spoon or something to make sure you get as much liquid as you can from them.
  • A lot of bean soups don't need a stock because of the broth they create while they are cooking. Cook beans with bay leaf and some fresh herbs like thyme and sage.
 

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