Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Before the Leeks Get Away

Buying leeks
and walking home under
the bare trees
Yosa Buson, 1716-1784
Just washed,
How chill
The white leeks!
Basho, 1644-1694
Basho's lines bring back memories. Leeks take a good bit of washing to be presentable to sell, especially when coated with the black clingy soil of my old Sumas garden. My hands would ache with cold after getting them ready for the farmers market on October mornings.
The overwintered leeks will start to shoot up soon. I like to keep a few of them going for the big round heads of white or pinkish flowers that generally appear in time to imitate Roman candles at 4th of July. But long before the bloom, the burgeoning flower stalk makes them too tough to eat with pleasure, and anyway it’s time to clear most of my raised bed for summer greens. My first lettuce and spinach plants are up, about 1/8th-inch tall, but visible. If I'm smart I'll start some more shortly to keep that harvest coming.

Here are two quick leek dishes from Winter Harvest:

Stir-fried Leeks and Romaine
Romaine lettuce is known in German as “kochsalat” (cooking salad), although I doubt the German versions generally feature soy sauce. Don’t turn your back on it; it cooks almost instantly.

1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or mild raspberry vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium leeks, white and light green, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
1 medium head romaine lettuce, shredded
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine water, soy sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oil in wok or large skillet. Add leeks, tossing to coat evenly. Stir over high heat for 30 seconds. Add lettuce and toss to combine.

Pour on soy mixture and reduce heat. Sprinkle with pepper flakes. Continue stirring over medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated. Serve at once.
Serves 4

Basque Leeks
This campfire or outdoor grilling quickie also works indoors. If you like your cooked veggies slightly blackened, skip the foil, and lower the tray to 6 inches below the heat. Check often. Your results will vary with your broiler.

12 medium leeks
1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Preheat broiler 4 inches below heat source. Trim all but 1 inch of green from leeks. Remove any tough outer leaves. Beginning about 1 inch from the base, split leeks upward so they fan out.

Wash leeks thoroughly, drain, and pat dry. Arrange on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil. Rub each leek with olive oil or dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Enclose in foil and broil 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot.
Serves 6

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