While vegetable stock may not have some of the “body” of a stock made with bones, it can still add significant flavor and is excellent for enhancing vegetarian dishes, soups, stews, curries and risottos. Use a light vegetable stock in the same way you would use a light chicken stock; for poaching vegetables, cooking a rice pilaf, or as an addition to a light sauce or light colored curry. Use a darker, roasted vegetable stock, for soups and vegetarian chilies and stews. Consider adding dried mushrooms to a vegetable stock to add color and enhance the flavor (mushrooms are a flavor enhancer because they contain glutamic acid, a naturally occurring version of MSG).
There are plenty of optional ingredients you can add to vegetable stock; dried or fresh mushrooms, tomatoes or tomato paste, parsnips, fennel, leeks, shallots, fresh thyme. Almost any vegetable can be used, but consider color and flavor carefully. Beets will color the stock a bright pink so may be best to avoid. Cabbages and broccoli may add too strong a flavor and smell for some people.
For a light stock, use raw vegetables and water. For a medium stock, chop the vegetables into smaller pieces and “sweat” them in the pan before adding water. For a dark, rich stock, roast the vegetables before adding them to the water. Add flavor and color enhancers such as dried mushrooms and tomato paste.