Homemade stocks provide a foundation of rich, intense flavor you simply can't get from store-bought versions, and they're essential to many of the dishes we prepare at Greens. In my book, Everyday Greens, I even include "A Stock Pep Talk" to encourage home cooks to start from scratch. The stock recipes here are easy to prepare and freeze ahead, so they'll be ready to go when it's time to cook a holiday feast (such as the one here) or a flavorful stew on a chilly weeknight.
Stock recipes are open to endless improvisation, as long as you follow these simple guidelines.
Always start with fresh, flavorful veggies. Freshness is the key to a good stock.
Add and exchange ingredients according to the season and recipe. If leeks aren't in season, substitute green onions or an extra yellow onion. Winter squash parings and seeds can be added to a stock that will be used to make squash soup; you can also throw in fresh corncobs in the summer.
Consider color. Mushrooms add wonderful flavor, but make a darker stock. Red onions can also give the liquid a darker hue. Avoid them if a recipe (such as the Saffron Risotto with Broccoli, above) needs to look light and bright.
Don't add brassica vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, turnips, and other brassica or cruciferous vegetables have strong flavors that can overpower a stock.