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Saturday, December 15, 2012


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Today we are going to discuss leeks. My dad told the same joke every time someone mentioned leeks. How do you make vichyssoise? First you take a leek. I laughed every time.

So what's the deal with leeks? It seems you buy them and throw out most of them. Leeks has a mild onion-like taste. In their raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm. The edible portions of the leek are the white base of the leaves (above the roots and stem base), the light green parts, and to a lesser extent the dark green parts of the leaves. One of the most popular uses is for adding flavor to stock. The dark green portion is usually discarded because it has a tough texture, but they can be sauteed or added to stock. A few leaves are sometimes tied with twine and other herbs to form a bouquet garni. Leek is typically chopped into thin slices. The slices have a tendency to fall apart, due to the layered structure of the leek. Leeks are usually sandy and need to be well soaked before adding to soups or stews. The different ways of preparing the vegetable are:
  • Boiled, which turns it soft and mild in taste.
  • Fried, which leaves it crunchier and preserves the taste. We make frizzled leeks this julienne to top soups or salads.
  • Raw, which can be used in salads, doing especially well when they are the prime ingredient.
Leeks are an ingredient of cock-a-leekie soup, leek and potato soup, and vichyssoise, as well as plain leek soup. Leeks also make a great tart, here is a recipe!

leek and cheese tart

Ingredients Pate Brisée, or your favorite pastry dough All-purpose flour, for rolling out your dough 2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed well 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons creme fraiche 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese 1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs (such as tarragon, basil, chives, parsley, or chervil) 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt Freshly ground pepper Procedure Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pate brisée into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 4 1/2-by-13 3/4-inch rectangular tart pan. Prick bottom with a fork. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes. Line dough with plastic wrap, and top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake until bottom is golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool in pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, saute leeks in butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until leeks are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer leeks to a bowl, and let cool slightly. Add eggs and yolk, cream, creme fraiche, cheese, herbs, and salt to leeks, and stir to combine. Season with pepper. Spoon filling into cooled tart shell. Bake until filling is set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cut into squares.