CSA Week Nine: Leeks

leeksLEEKS:    Another of those foods with a lot of green leaf.  This one though you aren’t eating the tops of.  I think they would make a nice fan though on a hot summer’s day or a good flyswatter.  The nice thing about getting your leeks through the CSA is that you don’t pay for all the extra green tops you are discarding, as you would at a grocery store. So the scoop on leeks?  They are a good source of dietary fiber, and contain folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Leeks are a part of the “allium” family along with garlic and onions.  Leeks are milder and easier to digest than standard onions and have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.

Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

The Romans are thought to have introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, where they were able to flourish because they could withstand cold weather. Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as this country’s national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against that Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Today, leeks are an important vegetable in many northern European cuisines and are grown in many European countries.


PREP TIME: Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, slicing until you reach the green portion.


This is my favorite leek recipe….ever.  It is from Jamie Oliver’s Family Dinners cookbook and I’ve made it so many times I basically know it by heart.  I’ve made it without the wine when I didn’t have it, but prefer the taste with wine.  Also you can make it without the sausage, but again it adds another layer of flavor.  Do use puff pastry for the topping though, it makes the dish. 

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Leek Pie
2 knobs (pats) butter
2 pounds  boned and skinned chicken legs, cut into pieces
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
Small handful thyme sprigs, leaves picked
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 wineglass white wine
1 1/4 cups milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
9 ounces good pork sausages
1 16-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

chicken-leek-pie

Take a large casserole pot and add a glug of olive oil and your butter. Add the chicken, leeks, carrots, celery, and thyme and cook slowly over medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn the heat right up, add the flour, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes before stirring in the wine, then a wineglass of water, and then the milk. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very slowly on the stove, stirring and scraping the pan every so often, until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. The sauce should be quite thick. If it’s a little too liquidy, just continue to simmer it with the lid off until it thickens slightly. (At this point you can let it cool and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days if you want to before assembling the pot pie—or it can also be eaten as a stew.) Pour the chicken mixture into an appropriately sized pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.

Squeeze the pork sausage out of the casings, roll it into little balls, and brown them with a little olive oil in a clean skillet over medium heat. Place them over the stew.

Roll out your pastry to about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully drape the pastry over the dish, using a knife to trim any pastry hanging over the edge of the dish. Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the egg to make it turn golden while baking. If desired, pinch the pastry to crimp it round the edge of the dish (there’s no need to do this, but I like to as my mum always does it and it makes it look pretty. I also use the back of a knife to lightly crisscross the top of the pastry—this makes the pastry crisp and flaky.) Bake the chicken pot pie in the center of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden on top.


CREAMY ONE POT SPAGHETTI WITH LEEKS
{courtesy of Food & Wine}

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 anchovy fillet, drained
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 pound spaghetti, noodles broken in half
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream

201404-r-creamy-one-pot-spaghetti-with-leeks

In a pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, scallions, leeks and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 6 minutes. Add the anchovy, crushed red pepper, spaghetti, stock, cream and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and a sauce forms, 11 minutes. Stir in the chives and 1/4 cup of cheese; season with salt. Serve the pasta with extra cheese on the side.


MORE LEEK RECIPES:  Potato Leek Soup, Pasta With Bacon and Leeks, Scalloped Potatoes With Leeks, Mushroom and Leek Quiche, Bacon and Leek Quiche, Breakfast Casserole With Leeks, Brie Leek Tarts, Quinoa Salad With Leeks and Feta


 

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