Dinner

By Suzanne Lehrer | May 23, 2011

Photo: Kake Pugh

Leeks-second only to ramps at this point-seem to be the spring vegetable blowing up the internet right now. (Editor’s note: I did not know this when I chose this week’s ingredient). But while the food blogs might be all leeked out, it appears that there are still some people out there who have not yet been introduced. Take, for instance,

the supermarket produce guy, who handed me green onions when I asked for leeks. Green onions are not leeks, people! And if even your local produce-stocker doesn’t know that, then maybe a little more leek love is on order.

Leeks-in the family of garlic, shallots, and yes, onions-are the perfect milder, sweeter compromise for your onion nay-saying friends. They’re also easier to eat-literally, according to the Romans, who believed that eating leeks was good for your throat. Aristotle (who knows his stuff, I’ve heard) believed that partridges’ clear singing voices were due to leek-heavy diets, and Nero ate leeks every day to strengthen his own voice (not for singing, but more likely for shouting at people). The Welsh used leeks for what could be considered an even more fortunate result: after winning a 1620 battle against the Saxons in which the soldiers tucked leeks into their caps to recognize each other on battlefield, leeks became one of Wales’ national emblems.

Counter-intuitively enough, the green part of the leek’s stalk is the less flavorful part, usually chopped off before use. Fresh leeks can even stay fresh in the refrigerator (unwashed and uncut) for up to two weeks. Although leeks are known primarily for their use in Vichyssoise, I decided to mix it up a little this week in my recipes.

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

LEEK DUMPLINGS RECIPE

I love dumplings. In China they eat dumplings for breakfast and I’m working on making that socially acceptable stateside as well. Although time-consuming, dumplings are fairly easy, and very fun to make. I call these “leek dumplings” because the addition of leeks is atypical for dumplings (or at least the Americanized Asian restaurant version), but the rest of the dumpling filling is pretty traditional.

Makes 15 Dumplings

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

EGG WHITE FRITTATA WITH LEEK CONFIT AND GOAT CHEESE RECIPE

I’ve often had what’s referred to as “melted leeks” at restaurants-which is basically a dreamy way of saying leeks with lots of butter. Another way of saying ‘leeks with lots of butter’ is leek confit, a recipe I came across on Bon Appetit’s website. I couldn’t think of anything better than putting this into an egg white frittata (I though the milder taste of egg whites as opposed to whole eggs would better showcase the leeks) and adding herbed goat cheese, for a bit of punch-and obligatory cheese accompaniment. I had never before made a frittata at home, but discovered it’s incredibly easy, and your friends will think you serve the most elegant homemade brunch around.

Makes 1 Frittata

Leek Confit From Bon Appetit

For Dumplings:
  • 1 1/4 cup leeks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, shredded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup cabbage, shredded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb tofu, diced and drained (press underneath a weighted plate for 30 minutes before use)
  • 4 water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 15 wonton wrappers(sold at many supermarkets)
For Leek Confit:
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise
For Frittata:
  • 5 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp herbed goat cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp butter

Directions

To Make Dumplings:

Combine all the vegetables and tofu with the soy sauce and Hoisin sauce in a large bowl. Sautee leeks and garlic in canola oil for 5-7 minutes or until light brown and tender, then add to the vegetable mixture. Let the whole mixture sit for 30 minutes to let the flavor sink in, then drain off excess liquid. Place a tablespoon of the mixture into the center of a wrapper, then dip your finger in water and lightly run it around the edges of the wrapper to help seal it. Press together two diagonal corners and seal until the dumpling sticks together on its own. When you have finished forming all of the dumplings, spray a steamer with non-stick cooking oil and boil water beneath. Steam the dumplings for about 5 minutes. If you don't have a steamer, you can microwave the dumplings with a wet paper-towel over them.

To Make Frittata:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

For the confit: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When melted, add the leeks, stir, and cover the pot. Stir occasionally and cook, covered for 25 minutes. When the leeks are tender, cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes to let some of the liquid evaporate.

Melt the remaining butter in a non-stick pan, and add the leek confit. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy and fluffy, and add into the pan, scrambling the eggs briefly in with the leeks, and crumble and add goat cheese. Scrape down the edges, and place the pan in the oven. Bake until stiff for about 7-10 minutes.

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