While asparagus tends to be one of the most called upon vegetables during Pesach, sometimes the price and availability make them just one more of the tres tres tres expensive items we have to buy for the 8 day food fest of Passover. I say make the switch to leeks and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at exactly how versatile and delicious this sweet, onion flavored vegetable can be.
Sometimes called the poor man’s asparagus, a leek is an onion without the crying and all of the flavor. When preparing a leek, you can keep it simple by slowly braising it or add some spices and herbs and pare it with other vegetables for a sweetly complex, subtle and mellow taste. The leek should not be considered merely a substitute for other vegetables; it’s hearty and delicious enough to compliment any meat, chicken or fish you serve it with.
When buying your leeks, you should look for medium sized ones with bright green leaves. They should be firm with no visible blemishes or bruises and the stalk should be white. I say look for medium sized ones for consistency in cooking. Smaller and larger leeks all taste the same they just take a bit less or more cooking time. On the upside, besides being not as expensive as asparagus, leeks contain antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins are very low in calories.
You should know up front, a leek is a dirt magnet vegetable and will require lots of cleaning once you get to the prep part. The roots hang on to the dirt but dirt also works its way into the leaves, much like the way it does in onions. The best way to get rid of dirt is to cut off about a 1/3 of an inch of the bottom with the root attached. Then cut off the top part of the green stalks. The ends of the leek are very fibrous so you don’t want to try and cook them. The lighter green and white section of the stalk are what you want. The next step is to cut the leek in half lengthwise. This is where you rinse, rinse and rinse again. Make sure to check the layers to get rid of any and all dirt. Once the dirt is gone you can dice, chop or keep them cut in half and start cooking.
The best part about using leeks is that they’re not just for Pesach and you can get them at a reasonable price all year around. The following recipes will delight anyone who’s looking for that special something for a week filled with matzo that isn’t filled with matzo.
LEEK STUFFED SALMON (fish)
1 whole salmon fillet, about 1 1/2 pounds 2 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped 1 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoons butter Salt and pepper Pinch of sugar 1 lemon, zested and juiced 1 tablespoon ketchup 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon minced garlic Fresh dill 1/2 cup pine nuts or almonds, toasted
In a skillet combine the butter and oil and heat until the butter melts. Add leeks, pinch of sugar and garlic and saute over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the leaks are very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350. Place whole fillet, skin-side down on a large cutting board. Slice the filet ALMOST in half length wise but NOT all the way through- just like you are slicing a hot dog bun. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the sliced filet on top. Pull back the top of the cut filet.
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, ketchup, and olive oil and whisk to combine. Brush 3/4’s of the mixture over all the sides of the salmon. Spread the leek and garlic mixture over the bottom layer of salmon and then place the top layer on top of the filling. Spoon the remaining 1/4 of the sauce over the top of the fish. Bake for about 16-18 minutes or until the salmon is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, let cool 4 or 5 minutes and place on a serving platter. Garnish with dill and toasted nuts. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled
Submitted by Reggie Bantsky source unknown
LEEK FRITTATA (dairy)
4 medium to large leeks, well rinsed, dried, sliced 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons butter 6 eggs 1/3 cup plain yogurt or milk Pinch dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese Parmesan cheese for dusting the top
In an oven-proof skillet, sauté the leeks in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until they become soft and start to brown. Remove the leeks and set aside. Don’t clean the pan. Preheat oven to broil. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, oregano, rosemary and salt and pepper. Add the leeks and whisk to combine. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the olive oil. Pour in the egg leek mixture into the hot pan and cook, over a medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the shredded pepper jack cheese on top. Place the pan under the broiler and broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the frittata puffs up and becomes golden brown. Remove immediately and sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese. Cool for 2 to 3 minutes then cut into 6 wedges and serve.
Modified from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
LEEP AND POTATO SOUP (dairy)
4 large boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered 2 large leeks, cut in half, cleaned, and sliced into long, thin strips 4 cups (1 quart) water 1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup plain yogurt Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup minced parsley, 1/2 cup minced green onions or chives 1/4 cup minced dill
In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, leeks, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30- 40 minutes until the potatoes are soft. In a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the buttermilk or yogurt and heat the soup slowly over low heat, uncovered, until just warmed through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley, green onions and dill. Mix to combine. Serve hot or cold. Serves 4.
Modified from Almost Vegetarian by Diana Shaw
MUSHROOM AND LEEK SOUP (pareve or dairy)
2 medium leeks 3/4 lb. mushrooms 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/4 cup white wine 1 can vegetable broth 1 tablespoon chopped fresh green onions
Cut leeks into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. In a large bowl of cold water wash leeks well and lift from water into a colander to drain. Thinly slice mushrooms. In 3-quart saucepan heat butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides and saute leeks, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown. Add wine and boil 1 minute. Add broth and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 2 minutes. Serve soup sprinkled with chives. Makes about 3 cups, serving 2.
Modified from Gourmet, November 1998
POTATO AND LEEK GALETTE (dairy) Print this recipe
1/4 cup olive oil, divided 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds 1 garlic clove, minced Kosher salt Juice of 1/4 lemon Freshly ground black pepper Freshly ground nutmeg 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes or other all-purpose potatoes, scrubbed
Preheat oven to 400. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over moderate heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until the leeks are soft but not too browned. Stir in lemon juice, a crack of pepper, and a grate of nutmeg. Set aside.
Use a mandolin or chef’s knife to cut the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Keep the potato slices stacked together to help prevent discoloration. (Do not rinse or soak the slices, as the natural potato starch helps hold the dish together.)
Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and lightly sprinkle with pepper and nutmeg. Working from the outside-in, use a third of the potato slices to cover the bottom of the skillet with a layer of slightly overlapping, concentric rings.
Brush or rub a third of the remaining olive oil over the potato slices, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and spread half of the leeks on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Top with a third of the potato slices. Continue building the galette in layers. When finished, you should have 3 layers of potatoes and 2 layers of leeks.
Bake in the oven until golden and tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. If the potatoes start to burn before they are cooked all the way through, cover with aluminum foil and remove for a few minutes at the end of baking.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Run a spatula or knife along the edges to loosen the galette and invert it onto a dish. Serve warm, cut into wedges.
Modified from The Kitchn.com
© Eileen Goltz leek 14a