Take a peek at leeks

Enjoy this vegetable’s sweet, subtle taste.

By ORLY PELEE-BRONSTEIN
April 18, 2013 10:12
leek salad

Take a peek at leeks. (photo credit: Dan Lev)

Sometimes called “The poor man’s asparagus,” leeks, the mildest members of the onion family, have a wonderful, sweet flavor and can really steal the show. Al Hashulchan, Israel’s leading food magazine, gives leeks the credit they deserve in this month's issue.

❖ Shopping: All vegetables are best when freshest but with leeks, this is especially important because old leeks are fibrous and not as tasty. Fresh uncooked leeks, on the other hand, can even be added to a salad.

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❖ Storage: In the wintertime, leeks do not need to be refrigerated; but when the weath- er begins to turn hot, it’s better to store them in the fridge, otherwise the stalks will wilt and soften.

❖ Cleaning: Leeks usually have dirt hiding between the stalks. To clean them properly, cut along the length of the stalks, separate the pieces and then soak them in water.

❖ Measurements:
One kilogram of leeks equals four cups of chopped leeks, which makes only two cups after they’ve been cooked.

❖ Taste: Leeks enrich the flavor of cheeses and all types of meat and fish. Herbs that enhance the leeks’ flavor include parsley, thyme and sage. Other additions that go well with leeks are white wine, mustard, lemon and garlic.

❖ Substitution: Leeks can successfully replace onions in a recipe, but the opposite does not always work.

WARM CABBAGE, LEEK AND APPLE DISH

Makes 6 servings

This is a dish that can be served with a meat or chicken meal but can also be served on its own.

50 gr. butter or margarine
2 stalks of leeks, chopped
2 apples (Granny Smith or Pink Lady) cut into 3-cm. cubes
1 white or red cabbage, sliced
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a pot with a thick bottom and cook over very low heat for 2 to 3 hours.

Alternatively, set your oven to 150°. Put all the ingredients in a pan and bake for 2 to 3 hours. Stir every 30 minutes and add more liquid if necessary. This is usually not necessary, since the cabbage secretes liquid as it becomes cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature.

WARM LEEK MUSHROOM AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD

Makes 4 servings

This is a light and tasty spring dish that is fantastic served on toast. It can also be used as a topping for pizza or as a base for other recipes.

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 red onion, cut into quarters and sliced
3 stalks of leeks, sliced
3 stalks of thyme
½ kg. (2 boxes) mushrooms (best if two or more different kinds are used)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine
½ roll of goat cheese, sliced or crumbled.

Heat a frying pan with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and sauté the onion, leeks and garlic for 10 minutes over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender and turn golden.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl and turn the flame up to maximum.

Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, the thyme and mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes until they are scorched. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper. Pour the wine and cook until it has all evaporated. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon so that no flavor is lost.

Return the leek mixture into the pan with the mushroom mixture and stir together for 2 minutes.

Add the goat cheese when ready to serve.

Variations:

❖ Replace the cheese with strips of chicken breast.

❖ Make leek and mushroom scrambled eggs by adding beaten eggs into the mixture.

❖ Make a frittata: After the cheese has been added, let all the liquids evaporate (if neces - sary, add 1-2 Tbsp. bread crumbs to thicken the mixture.) Beat 6 eggs and pour over the mixture. Fry for 4 minutes until it solidifies. Flip over and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

❖ Use as a pasta sauce: Add cooked strained pasta to the wine and leek mixture, stir together for 2 minutes until the flavors blend, add the goat cheese and serve.

STEAMED CHICKEN BREAST WITH LEEKS AND THYME

Makes 4 servings

Delicate ingredients can sometimes be overwhelmed by the strong flavor of onions. In these cases, leeks can produce great results. In this recipe, the chicken breast is steamed with the leeks, thyme and wine, producing a delicate, elegant dish.

Note: This cooking method can be used to steam vegetables and fish as well. To make sure that the envelopes are closed, you may use a stapler or bind with string.

4 fresh flattened chicken breasts (not too thin)
1 leek stalk, sliced into thin rounds
8 thyme sprigs
4 cloves of garlic, halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup white wine

Preheat your oven to 200°.

Prepare 4 sheets of parchment paper.

Put a chicken breast on each one. Top each chicken piece with about a quarter of the leek rounds and 2 stalks of thyme.

Season with garlic, salt, pepper and a little bit of wine, and then fold the paper to close each package tightly.

Place the packages in a baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes.

Place one package on each plate. Open carefully; the steam will come out. This dish goes well with mashed potatoes or rice.

Variation: If you prefer cooking thick chicken breasts, add 5 minutes to the cooking time.

Recipes and photos were taken from the April issue of Al Hashulchan .Translated by Hannah Hochner




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