Archives for posts with tag: leeks

Five years ago I cast my lot with Riverdog Farm in Guinda, CA, subscribing to receive their weekly vegetable box. I had been shopping at Farmers’ Markets since I lived in San Francisco, going to Saturday and Sunday markets to buy the bulk of what I cooked. When I moved back to the East Bay I took to frequenting the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Although I love going to the market I had been interested in vegetables by subscription for a long time and when a friend recommended Riverdog’s program I signed up, initially splitting a box with my friend Elaine who lives in Berkeley.

My reading influenced me. I had read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about how she and her family had endeavored to raise most of their food on their Virginia farm and to buy locally what they couldn’t grow themselves. This afternoon I refreshed my memory of Kingsolver’s first locavore spring as I contemplated what to write about today.

Spring has sprung by the calendar. The days are longer. Plane trees have leafed out. A few native freesias push themselves up in the yard. A full moon lit the mild, clear night on Friday as I walked the last two miles home from a Passover seder at Elaine’s, where we ate broccoli, roasted potatoes, duck, carrots in the matzo ball soup, charoset made of dried apricots and dates. Sun shone on the Berkeley market on Holy Saturday where people stood in line for green strawberries (I tasted one), berries with white shoulders, asparagus and globe artichokes. One patron snapped up the only box of snow peas. Spring produce is late this year in northern California, not as late as last year where unexpected ongoing rain slowed all of the crops, but this was a slim market on the day before Easter. I brought home a bottle of plum vinegar, two pounds of walnuts in the shell, a grapefruit for another round of Shrimp Diablo. I considered buying a large basil plant and plucking every leaf to make pesto.

This is the time of year when I wish I had preserved more during the summer and fall, roasted more red peppers and frozen them, dried more tomatoes and raisins, canned more dilly beans, made more pesto. I break out stores of canned tomatoes, jars of roasted peppers and chutney, condiments to lend flavor to our spring diet. We use frozen mozzarella, fresh spinach, cottage cheese, diced tomatoes and Prego marinara to make lasagna. I pile peach chutney, roasted peppers and fresh arugula on a broiled Portobello burger marinated in salad dressing. We make pies out of frozen peaches and canned cherries.

Painting shows leek-feta quiche and ingredients.

Leek-Feta Quiche. 8″ x 8″ gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

What I can rely on in March and April is an abundant supply of alliums: spring onions and leeks. Every week Riverdog sends us a pound or two. I use leeks instead of onions in carrot soup and find I do not care for the substitution: note to self — only white parts of leeks, which will not give the green tinge and the strong flavor. I slice one leek into rings in a bowl of water, separating each ring to let the sandy grit sink to the bottom. I heat a few teaspoonfuls of olive oil mixed with butter in a skillet, lift the leeks from the water, pat them dry and saute them. I preheat the oven to 325. I roll out pie crust, sprinkle the bottom with crumbled feta cheese, add the sauteed leeks. I cut a jarred roasted red pepper into squares and scatter them on top of the leeks and cheese. I add a few cubes of marinated feta, just enough to create a pleasant design on the red and green. I grate a few tablespoons of Pecorino over that.

Then I beat three eggs in a metal bowl and add a splash of milk, eyeball it and add a little more, whisking the custard together. I pour the custard over the vegetables and cheese and pop the quiche in the oven.

This is a rough recipe: I have made it many times and feel no need to make more than the roughest of measures. I’m going to guess slightly on the amounts I recommend (Sometimes I measure backwards, pouring out what I think I will need and then checking the amount for you by pouring liquid back into a measuring cup, for example). If you need to know exact amounts you might want to look up another recipe for that. I will refer you to my Mom’s recipe for pie crust because I can recommend it wholeheartedly as the pastry we use most often.

Make 1 recipe pie crust. Chill crust while you prepare the leeks.

Clean 1 leek by slicing it into thin rings and teasing each ring apart in a large bowl of water. Lift rings out with a slotted spoon or small sieve and pat them dry.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp butter in a skillet. When combined, add leeks and saute.

While the leeks saute, you should have time to roll out your crust. Take 1/4 of your pie crust, flatten slightly and roll out on a floured board into a 10 inch circle. Fold and place in a 9-inch pie tin or tart pan.

Scatter feta cheese to taste on crust — I use enough to almost cover the bottom. Add sauteed leeks.

Slice 1 roasted red pepper into small squares. Scatter on top of leeks.

Sprinkle vegetables with additional feta, plus 2 Tbsp grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

Beat 3 eggs. Add a splash of milk. Whisk. Pour custard over vegetables. if necessary, add milk to fill crust.

Bake quiche until top puffs and browns, at least half an hour.

Food Notes: You may, of course, substitute cheeses if you prefer something else to feta, substitute scallions or sauteed onions for leeks, substitute sun-dried tomatoes for the roasted red peppers. Quiche is, by nature, a flexible recipe. Because I was using feta, a salty cheese, I didn’t add any salt — if you choose a mild, sweet cheese, you might want to add some. If you want to eat this during Passover week, you could make it without crust.

painting shows bowl of chicken-coconut soup with Asian condiments

Chicken-Coconut Soup. 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

The weather swings from mackerel skies to overcast, from sun to rain. The farm box remains remarkably constant in content: spring onions, leeks, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, tangerines. Today we got cilantro and asparagus as well. My mother has been under the weather for days, following a diet of toast, toast and toast. What can I possibly make for dinner?

I settle on an old favorite, a spin on Thai chicken-coconut soup with plenty of winter vegetables: carrots, cabbage, spinach and leeks.

I begin by making coconut milk. I measure two cups of unsweetened coconut into the blender while I heat 2 and 1/2 cups of skim milk on the stove. (The richness of the milk does not matter: we are using it to extract the coconut flavor from the coconut — I’ve used everything from whole milk to skim and water in a pinch). Blend the warmed milk and the dry coconut for a minute or two and then strain out the coconut. Throw that same coconut back in the blender with two cups of warm water and make a second batch, straining the coconut out. Now you may throw the coconut meat out, or compost it: all of the flavor has gone into the bowl of thick and thin coconut milk.

I heat two pints of homemade chicken stock on the stove and add the coconut milk and most of a boned and skinned chicken that we roasted earlier in the week. I add 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and the juice of one lime and about 1/2 tsp of chili paste with garlic. I let the meat simmer in the broth while I cut up two root ends of lemongrass and slice about 1 Tbsp of frozen fresh ginger into thick coins. Leaving the lemongrass and ginger large means we will be able to spot them in the soup. I add a bowl of leek rings that I cleaned and cut a couple of days ago.

Mom slices carrots into irregular pieces — like making carrot sticks — and washes spinach leaves. I wash and chop the roots of today’s cilantro and add them to the simmering pot. I slice cabbage thinly.

Then we go upstairs and watch an episode of “The Rockford Files.”

When we return to the kitchen, Mom turns up the pot to high and adds the carrots. In three minutes the carrots are almost cooked and I turn the burner down to medium and add the cabbage. Oops. I have underestimated the volume of the soup, so instead of cooking spinach in the soup we put spinach leaves in our bowls and ladle the hot soup on top of them, turning off the soup pot. I garnish my bowl with fresh cilantro. There is plenty of soup for future meals: we will reheat it and add fresh spinach and cilantro to our bowls again.

Food Notes: As you can see, this is not a precise recipe. The basics include a blend of chicken broth and coconut milk and the classic Thai seasonings of ginger or galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce, and chilies. You can vary the amounts of fish sauce, lime juice, chili paste, lemongrass and ginger to taste. If you like your soup sweet, you can add brown sugar. You can make it with canned coconut milk, either regular or light, which is what I do when I am not out of canned coconut milk. Tonight’s version was mild, rather than spicy, to accommodate Mom’s indisposition, but you can amp it up with loads of chili paste or fresh chilies. You can make it traditional Thai style with no vegetables at all. You can add rice noodles or rice. You can use leeks, spring onions, or scallions. You can include sweet potatoes or broccoli, as long as you do not cook them too long in the soup. If you like crunchy broccoli, you might want to put it in your bowl and pour the soup over it like we did with the spinach: by the time you get to the bottom of your bowl the broccoli will be nicely cooked. This is a nice soup to eat when you have a cold or when you are trying to tempt someone with a low appetite: packing it full of vegetables adds vitamins and minerals to the broth.

Painting Notes: The quickest of paintings to meet a deadline.

Painting shows knishes and ingredients.

The Irish Knish. 12″ x 12″ gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Although my family is half-Irish, we are not big on St. Patrick’s Day food here. I should say I am not big on St. Patrick’s Day food, having suffered through a few childhood years of corned beef and cabbage. I lived in Ireland for a year when I was in college and remember the big food groups being potatoes, Swedes (rutabaga) as big as your head, bacon, butter and cheese with sides of oatmeal, biscuits and “puddings” covered with custard which came out of a tin. I also ate prawn sandwiches from a sandwich shop near Trinity College and gyros from carts off the street. In Dublin, I bought groceries daily and set my milk in a bowl of water on a window ledge: when the rare sun came out, the milk spoiled and it was time to make soda bread.

Yesterday, however, I came across a potato knish recipe on Smitten Kitchen (two, actually). Her knishes were so beautiful that I decided to make some, substituting the classic Irish vegetable, cabbage, where she had used kale. As I peeled and cleaned potatoes, I thought of my Irish grandmother, Grandmother Carroll, and was vigilant about removing every spot and blemish from each spud. Then, as I was sweating leeks and boiling the red potatoes, I realized that I could make the knish into a complete meal by adding some finely diced Canadian bacon to my leek mixture, giving the nod to my mother’s birthplace in Manitoba and the bacon of Ireland at the same time. Ye who eat kosher may recoil in horror here, but I imagine that many an Irish housewife in New York tried a knish or learned to make one from a neighbor and sweetened the recipe with bacon or ham in her own kitchen. I will not be offended if you leave out the Canadian bacon or if you only make knishes from your grandmother’s recipe.

I had never made a knish at all before this and I’m not even sure that I have eaten one. Certainly, no one has ever made them for me. I was up against a new dough. The filling of leeks, potatoes, cabbage and Canadian bacon was not unlike soups I have made this winter, although knishes require no broth and Deb added cream cheese to the potatoes. I followed suit with that: when I tasted the potato filling before making the knishes, the potatoes had a lovely sweet taste, coming from the cheese and the barely sauteed shredded cabbage. The tablespoon of butter in the saute pan came through, too.

I followed the unfamiliar directions: divide the dough. Roll half of it into a 12″ x 12″ rectangle (Hey! I know what those look like from painting). Put half the filling across the bottom of the dough, making it about two inches wide and roll it up like a cigar, twice around with the dough. Mark off dough at around 3 and 1/2 inches (basically cut it into three equal parts). I did not fully understand the instructions for twisting the dough, but I managed to close one end of each piece, converting that to a knish base. Nor did I trim the excess dough as suggested: I just let it wrap part-way around and “glued” it with a finger dipped in water. There never was a Dimmick that did not like extra crust or extra dough.

I even made egg wash because I had seen the beautiful browning on Deb’s knishes and coveted it: in fact it was the browning and the cunning round shape with a little filling showing that made me want to make these knishes in the first place. Brushing things with egg wash is the kind of step I am often tempted to skip because then you have that lonely egg white sitting in the fridge and have to start thinking of what to do with it (it may go into the next batch of waffles or pancakes to make them extra light). I dutifully applied egg wash with a pastry brush.

I am pleased to say that the knishes came out beautifully. They looked something like Deb’s with their browned exterior and a little window of creamy potato peeking out of the tops. The crust was thin and crisp, the filling soft and warm and savory. I served them with some warmed applesauce and a pot of Irish breakfast tea, a warming lunch on a soft gray day.

Food notes: For detailed instructions, please read Deb’s second knish recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I used olive oil for the vegetable oil she calls for and it worked fine. I substituted 1 cup of finely shredded cabbage for the kale. I folded 1/4 cup diced Canadian bacon into the leeks when they were almost done cooking, stirred, and put the lid back on. When the leeks were done, I put the cabbage in with them and cooked the mixture for two minutes more. I saved the potato water from boiling the potatoes because my grandmother taught me to use that in yeast bread. If I had been thinking, I might have cooked extra potatoes and used them to make potato bread. Next time: if you are Irish, you cannot eat too many potatoes, or too much bread either. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

painting depicts meal of bread, soup and salad for January

January Feast. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

In January I crave greens. After the excesses of the winter holidays with their meat, squash, bread, potatoes and sweets, I want things sharp and bright-tasting while still needing warm dishes to chase away the chill. Thursday I cooked all day and hit upon that classic meal of soup, salad and bread.

I started with the oven on for Savoring Every Bite’s caramelized oranges and made some granola while I was at it, plus roasted a kabocha squash. Then I cleaned leeks and peeled potatoes for soup, scrubbing the potatoes first so that I could toss the peels and tough leek greens into a stock pot for vegetable stock. While that boiled, I sauteed 3 sliced leeks, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of minced ham and some crumbled dried rosemary (use fresh if you grow it) in 2 Tbsp butter. As that cooked I peeled and diced about 1 pound of yellow Finn potatoes and added them to the pan to brown a bit. I then covered them with a pint of chicken stock and four cups of water, covered the pot and let them cook. Then I got out the mandoline to shred Savoy cabbage — I shredded nearly half a head of cabbage and set the mandoline aside for another use later.

When the potatoes were tender I mashed some of them and left some chunks. The soup was a little watery, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it continue to cook uncovered.

Meanwhile, I got out three small fennel bulbs, whacking off the stalks and fronds for the vegetable stock pot, along with the tough outer pieces. Then I cut each bulb in half and shredded it with the mandoline over a salad bowl. I scored the peel of 1 large navel orange into quarters, saving the peel to candy another day, and segmented the orange and sliced the segments, putting them into the bowl with the fennel. Then I took my remaining orange-sesame vinaigrette and poured it over the oranges and fennel and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.

I turned off the soup and let it sit (I added the cabbage ten minutes before reheating and serving it).

Then I turned my attention to bread, an orange-cumin yeast bread adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. The warm oven from caramelized oranges, granola and roasted squash would help the bread rise. Here’s my modified recipe

Orange Cumin Bread

Juice and zest 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)

Scald 1/2 cup milk and set off heat to cool.

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or measure 4 and 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast).

Into large bowl of stand mixer, measure

1/2 cup sugar (any kind will do)

4 Tbsp corn oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground cumin, plus the scalded milk and the orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup warm water

Mix to combine and then add dissolved yeast. Mix again.

Now add 4 cups unbleached flour and

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

Switch to dough hook, or knead by hand, remembering to knead for at least ten minutes to develop the gluten. This dough can be sticky so you may need to add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time or keep flouring your kneading surface.

Put dough in large bowl (I use the same one I mixed in) greased with a little oil or vegetable shortening. Cover dough with damp smooth kitchen towel (I warm my towel in the microwave for twenty seconds) and set bowl in warm place to rise until double (about an hour). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (thirty minutes this time). Meanwhile grease two standard loaf pans.

When bread dough has risen for the second time, deflate it and shape into two loaves. Put loaves in prepared pans and let rise until dough is even with the edge of the pan. Fifteen minutes before it gets there, slash the dough with a sharp knife — I make two parallel diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf — and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for forty minutes, until crust is brown and tapped loaf sounds hollow. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Now you can heat up your soup, toss in the cabbage, take the salad from the fridge and feed some happy people.

Soup notes: Any kind of potatoes will do for this soup — just don’t use purple ones! If you are a vegetarian, omit the ham and chicken broth in the soup and prepare it with vegetable stock or milk and water. If you are an omnivore and don’t have ham on hand, you could substitute bacon or prosciutto. If you don’t have leeks, substitute onions. If you don’t have Savoy cabbage, use another kind — anything but red or purple which will give you an undesirable color.

Bread notes: Mark Miller’s recipe calls for dried milk and orange juice concentrate — I have adapted it to use whole foods instead. He also calls for starting with whole cumin seed, toasting it and grinding it. I have done this and it is good, but if your cumin is fresh or you can’t get cumin seed, you can just use ground cumin. If your cumin has been around for awhile, toast it in a dry skillet. This bread is light and wheaty: for a variation, try reversing the proportions of cornmeal and whole wheat flour. Like most breads with fruit in them, it makes excellent toast.

This month I am participating in citruslove, a glorious collection of seasonal citrus recipes, #citruslove. Check ’em out here at the bottom of the post. Click on Linky tools there to see all the submissions.