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Posts tagged ‘Leeks’

New Favorite One-pot Meal (+ an Egg)

Lots of chopped greens, onions, garlic, harissa and a bit of bulgur turn into a heavenly pot of goodness after an hour of gentle steaming. 

A friend of mine raved about this dish at a dinner party the other night. It took me a week to finally make it and then I made it twice in a row–the second time to take to another dinner party where it was happily devoured. It’s a humble, somewhat subtle dish that is perfectly suited to any climate that has an abundance of hearty greens (chard, kale, mustards, etc. ). And I can’t wait to play around with other spices and toppings. But for now here is more or less the way it was conveyed to me and I believe it originated with Paula Wolfert, so no wonder it’s a keeper. Please report back and tell me how it works for you and if you adapt it.

After its hour-long steam it’s ready for lemon, a fried (or poached) egg, more harissa and Greek yogurt.

Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
–inspired by Paula Wolfert 

This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisia hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and garlic, coriander, red chili powder, and caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.

1 large onion, finely diced
1 leek, carefully washes, sliced in half lengthwise and then finely chopped (or more onion if you don’t have any leeks)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote) I used 4-5 teaspoons but with other brands that might be too much.
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving

Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.

Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.

When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.

Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.

It makes me hungry just writing this caption. The lemon juice is important to brighten everything up a bit but if you don’t have a lemon extra harissa will probably do.

Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . .Well, my garden would never materialize if I  did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like a cook–without a whole lot of planning when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it's much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until smooth-ish. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.

Simplicity

Polenta with Greens and Beans

We’ve been to lots of holiday parties over the past two weeks. I’ve baked a lot, made some candy, and generally have been a bit out of my routine. I love the parties and this time of year in general but tonight, I just cooked a regular old dinner and it was just the three of us and Ellis went to bed on time.

It’s during times like these where the cook-with-what-you-have philosophy and capacity is especially useful. When your grocery lists focus on sweets or what you’re going to bring to Christmas dinner, being able to make a frittata with a handful of herbs and a few diced potatoes, or a bowl of polenta with greens or beans or both, is a blessing.  So instead of sending out a final cookie recipe or some glamorous holiday dinner center piece, here are a few photos and ideas of what to make when you just need a regular old meal to keep you going, happy, and healthy.

Herb and Potato Frittata

If you don’t have time for the polenta and have some cooked or canned beans on hand, just braise whatever greens you have (kale, chard, collard greens. . .) with a little crushed garlic and some salt and mix with the warmed beans. Drizzle generously with olive oil and enjoy with our without a piece of bread.

Or, dice some winter squash and/or carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. and toss with olive oil, maybe some cumin and chili flakes and roast at high heat until tender. Fry an egg and pop it on top of those veggies and dig in.

Another favorite is to cook a few, chopped leeks in a little butter or oil. Toast big slices of bread and spread on some goat cheese or a few slices of any kind of cheese you have on hand, top with the hot leeks, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, add a few grinds of pepper and salt and olive oil and enjoy!

More ideas of course on the recipe page and please share your favorite quick winter meals in the comments if you’d like.

I wish you all a peaceful, delicious and convivial holiday. Thank you for reading and cooking.

Gratefully  yours,

Katherine

My mother and me with some of the Thanksgiving pies in the background

Why I Teach & Leeks and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Class was fun this last weekend. It’s almost like the reward for all the work leading up to it. The house is clean and full of flowers; all stations are prepped, and new people walk in the door and we get to work. And then we eat! It’s really energizing and reminds me why I do this work. It helps when everyone likes the dishes and is inspired to cook them at home, vary dishes to suit their tastes, pick up new varieties of veggies, etc.

I also had a realization of sorts last week as I prepared for class. I was musing (to myself) about why I started this business and in what ways I am qualified to teach people about cooking. I concluded the following:

1) Being organized (planning, sourcing, cleaning, prepping, budgeting) is more than half the battle!

2) Having cooked most of my life and having had good culinary mentors helps.

3) But most importantly, since my whole point is to demonstrate how simple and satisfying cooking with/for your family/friends  can be, there really isn’t much pressure to be new, fancy, and trendy and that is such a blessing!

So back to the food. . . .One of my favorite dishes from Sunday’s class is a bruschetta that serves as a complete meal for our family this time of year.

Bruschetta with Stewed Leeks and Goat Cheese

This is a wonderfully hearty, one-dish dinner with the simplest of ingredients. Leeks are one of those farmers’ market mainstays that are with us from fall through spring. If you don’t have goat cheese on hand, feta would work too or cream cheese. Or you could take the hard-boiled egg yolks and mash them with a little olive oil and salt and spread it on the bread and just use the chopped whites on top. Quantities are approximate and feel free to make less or more depending on what you have on hand and/or want to use up.

2-3 leeks (cut off only the top couple of inches that are scruffy. Most of the green part is great to eat)

5 slices of rustic bread

4-5 oz soft (fresh) goat cheese

3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)

1 tsp fresh or dry thyme (finely chopped or crumbled)

salt and pepper

1 Tbs butter

olive oil

Clean leeks well and cut in half lengthwise then cut into ½ inch half-rounds. Heat butter and a good splash of olive oil in a large sauté pan over med/high heat. Add the leeks when the butter is melted and oil is hot. Stir well to coat, salt generously with a couple of large pinches of kosher salt. Add thyme and stir well. Cook for a few minutes uncovered, then turn the heat down a bit and cover. Check occasionally to make sure the leeks aren’t browning or burning. Add a splash of water if they start to stick and turn the heat down a bit more. Cook for about 15 minutes until leeks are meltingly tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and hard-boil the eggs and peel and chop those. Spread the goat cheese on the bread, arrange stewed leeks on cheese, sprinkle with egg, sprinkle with salt and a couple of grinds of pepper and drizzle a little good olive oil over the whole thing.