It is with heavy heart and full belly that I sign off on the last post of the season. It has been a pleasure writing for the farm once again and I sincerely hope you have found my posts informative and helpful. If you aren’t yet ready to say good-bye, it just so happens that I am currently in the process of starting a new blog of my own called The Wholesome Gourmande. This blog will be a food and lifestyle column dedicated to topics aimed at balancing health and wellness with joy and delicious food. It will include a wealth s of useful health information and delicious recipes, (and eventually cooking videos!)
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Leeks are one of those cold weather vegetables that are highly underrated. Folks think of Vichyssoise when they think of leeks, a French soup we all love but figure must be complicated to cook given its fancy name. Beyond that, most of us aren’t quite sure what to do with this vegetable. However the fact is leeks can be as basic to cooking as your typical onion, shallot, scallion or garlic (after all, they all come from the same allium family). If you like raw onions in your salad or on your burger, try raw leeks. If you love onion rings, try frying leeks. Instead of sweating onions for your next stew or soup, substitute leeks. What you will find will surprise and delight you. While in the same family as onions or garlic, leeks are milder and sweeter. The have the added divine quality of becoming incredibly silky when cooked down with plenty of fat or liquid, which is why Vichyssoise and “melted” leeks are such incredible delicacies and why soups made with leeks seem like they are made with tons of butter and cream even when they aren’t.
When I first started looking into the nutritional properties of alliums like onions and garlic, I was completely shocked to find out how nutritionally dense these most humble of vegetables really are. Leeks are no exception. In addition to containing pretty high levels of many key vitamins and minerals, like A, C, K, folate, copper, manganese and iron, they are also very high in key antioxidant flavinoids as well as sulfur containing nutrients, all of which contribute to detoxification and protection from illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Raphael Kellman, M.D., author of the Microbiome Diet, notes that leeks (as well as onion and garlic) are important for a healthy microbiome (the balance of beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria in the gut that supports a tremendous amount of vital bodily functions). In fact, 3-10% of the weight of leeks is comprised of inulin, a prebiotic which serves the very important role of feeding the good bacteria in our gut. If you are currently taking a probiotic to heal or support your gut, it is very important to also ingest prebiotics in order for the probiotic to feed and thrive.
As mentioned above, leeks can be used in food preparation like any other allium. They are great simply sautéed or even caramelized. They add an incredible silky element to pureed soups but are also good in chunky stoups and stews. They are also wonderful in casseroles. “Melted leeks” or leeks that have been cooked until super soft in fat and liquid, are incredibly good on pizza. Here are a number of other creative leek ideas culled from the Internet:
- White Cheddar and Leek Dip (click here)
- Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding (click here)
- Leek and Potato Cakes (click here)
- Roasted Radishes and Leeks with Thyme (click here)
- Seared Scallops with Brandied Leeks and Mushrooms (click here)
- Salmon Stuffed with Leeks (click here)
- Butternut Squash and Leek Lasagna (click here)
- Leek and Lemon Linguine (click here)
Choose leeks that are straight with nice white bulb ends and fresh, bright green leaf ends. Avoid soft or brown leeks. Because leeks can get tough at the leaf end it is customary to cut off the leaf end at the point where the leek goes from light green to dark green. Leeks often harbor sand in between their layers so it is important to clean them thoroughly. If you are ultimately using sliced or chopped leeks in your dish, cut the the leeks first and then swish them in a bowl of cold water to remove dirt. If you want to keep the leek fairly intact, cut the leek in half lengthwise and run under cold water, attempting to rinse between the layers while keeping the leek pieces intact.
I could eat these mustard braised leeks all day long. They are especially good served alongside pork or chicken.
Mustard Braised Leeks
– 2 slices uncured smoked bacon, chopped (optional)
– 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
– about 10-12 ounces leeks, light green and white part only, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup home-made or purchased chicken or veggie broth
– 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
– 1 tablespoon coconut milk or dairy cream
Wash leeks well, getting between the layers as best as possible while keeping the pieces intact. Remove any tough outer layers of leek pieces (they won’t get very tender).
This recipe was inspired by the Leek, Artichoke, and Chicken pizza we always loved at Little City Pizza in Simsbury, CT.
What is unique about this flatbread is its ease. Unlike pizza dough, it doesn’t require yeast or fermentation, which saves time. What you get is a crisp flatbread more than a pizza, which is a nice change from thick, doughy homemade pizza and makes quick work of dinner.
If you don’t have a fresh sweet pepper, try substituting with jarred red peppers or finely chopped cooked broccoli florets.
Leek, Pepper, and Artichoke Flatbread 2 Flatbreads
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– 1 cup white whole wheat flour
– 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
– 2 teaspoons salt, divided
– 3/4 cup water
– 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
– 2 tablespoons grass fed unsalted butter
– 6 small/med leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 large sweet bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
– 1 9.9 ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into 1/4″ pieces
– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
– 2 teaspoons lemon juice
– 1/4 cup water
– 6 ounces grated gruyere cheese
1. If using a pizza stone, place pizza stone on oven rack set to lowest level. Preheat to 450℉ while preparing the rest of the ingredients. If not using a pizza stone, set oven rack to lower position, preheat oven to 450℉ and have a pizza pan or large baking sheet on hand.
2. Break up disks of leek with fingers and place in a large, deep bowl. Fill bowl with water and using your fingers, swish leeks pieces around to dislodge any dirt particles, which will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Allow the bowl of leeks to rest undisturbed for 1-2 minutes, then gently lift the leeks out of the water into a colander to drain, being careful not to agitate the water too much and stir up the dirt. Alternatively, wash and drain leeks in a salad spinner.
3. Heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, (preferably non-toxic) non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add leeks, peppers, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to stick the pan, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add water and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks get very tender (if vegetables start to stick again before leeks are very tender, add more water and continue cooking). Remove from heat and stir in artichokes and lemon juice. Taste for salt level and add additional salt if needed. Topping can be made 2 days ahead. If not using immediately, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
4. Meanwhile, combine flours, 1 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix water and oil in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Using a fork, whisk in a circular motion at the outer edges of the liquid, gradually incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients until you have a shaggy dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead into a smooth and elastic ball, about 5 minutes. Divide dough in half, press each into a disk, and over with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
5. Oil one side of two sheets of parchment paper. Place one dough disk on one oiled side and cover with the second sheet, oiled side down. Roll out into a 12” round, or to the size of your pizza stone or pan (do not make it larger than your stone or you will have a mess in your oven). Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment and transfer the dough with the bottom sheet of parchment to your pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet and then to the pizza stone (or alternatively transfer dough to your pizza pan). Bake for 3-4 minutes or until dough is set but not browned. Using pizza peel or inverted baking sheet, remove dough from the oven and sprinkle with half of the leek mixture. Top evenly with half of the cheese. Return the flatbread to the oven and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes or until dough is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Repeat procedure with second pizza.
Julie Wern is a Integrative Nutrition health coach, food writer, and cooking instructor who is passionate about health, food, and joyful living. For direct comments or inquiries please use this contact form to send a message to Julie. To comment on the blog, scroll down further to the blog comment section:
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