Leek Gratin

This is my new favorite way to cook and eat leeks.  My Dad made this on a whim, without a recipe, for Christmas dinner and it was amazing, no leftovers at all!  You can easily make double this recipe, which is what I did since I had a whole bunch of leeks from my Dad’s garden and wanted to cook them up all at once.  I cooked all the leeks, about 10 cups total, and baked half right away.  The next day I baked the other half for another dinner.  This is a nice addition to a pot luck dinner and if you do have leftovers they are great hot or cold.  Prepping the leeks takes the longest, especially if you are getting them from your root cellar and not fresh from the store.  Leeks are a great storage veggie, as you can easily peel off the less pretty outer layers and find a perfectly preserve leek inside!

leek gratin 1

Ingredients:

5 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons pasture butter

1 large egg

a shy 1/2 cup cream or half and half

Method:

Prepare the leeks: strip away any rotten or damaged outer layrs, slice off the root tip and trim the top to the light green part.  Thinly slice all the leeks until you have about 5 cups.

leek gratin 2

Preheat the oven to 355 degrees.

In a large sauce pan or pot, I used my enamel coated cast iron soup pot, add the butter, sliced leeks and sprinkle with salt, then add as much black pepper as you like.

Over medium low flame, sweat the leeks until they are just past bright green, cooked though and reduced dramatically in size.

leek gratin 3

leek gratin 4

Let the leeks cool.

Whip together the egg and heavy cream.

Combine the egg, cream and cooked, cooled, leeks in glass or ceramic baking dish, I used a 1.5 liter pyrex square.

Spead the mixture evenly and top with a sprinkling of cheese, Gruyere is my favorite!

leek gratin 5

Bake the gratin until it’s set and staring to brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.  You can brown the cheese under the broiler at the end if that sounds good to you.  Enjoy!

Advertisements

Creamy Leek and Mushroom Soup

Yesterday, on my way home at the end of my run, I saw the first few snowflakes of the season start to fall.  It seemed like the right time to make some hearty soup using the leeks my dad gave me a few days ago.  We didn’t grow any leeks this year so this was a nice treat.  My dad has leeks down to a science, he gets the edible parts of white or light green to grow very tall and so I ended up with a lot of leeks to cook with!

I based this soup on the leek soup I posted a few years ago.  I started with a few carrots, a handful of dried mushrooms, all the leeks, Reishi mushroom powder and dried Astragalus root, about a stick of butter, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, salt and pepper.  Here’s how I put it all together into a creamy, filling soup:

I got out our enamel pot, the Reishi mushroom powder, the heavy cream and some bonito flakes. I later decided bonito flakes were a bad idea. I also made my self some aloe ginger lemon juice, it’s important to re-hydrate after a long, cold run! I boiled water to soak my dried mushrooms in, you can see I used a bowl to weight them down in the measuring cup.

All the leeks trimmed and ready to chop, my mushrooms ready to mince along with the mushroom broth and a few carrots.

I started with the heat on medium low and added most of a stick of butter and all the sliced leeks, I’d say about 6-7 cups total. I salted the leeks and stirred to incorporate the butter.

The leeks took about 20 minutes to reduce down and soften.  Just keep the heat relatively low and stir occasionally so the fat doesn’t start to brown or burn.  Taste and make sure you have enough salt.

While the leeks cooked down I chopped the mushrooms and carrots and got out a piece of dried Astragalus to add to the broth. Just remember to remove the root before you puree the soup!

Add the carrots and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes more before adding the mushroom soaking water and any other stock you need.

At this point you can eat this sautéed veggie combination, with some black pepper and salt to taste as a compliment to some baked fish. Or you can add more broth, the heavy cream and puree it. I took some of the veggie saute out and then made soup with the rest!

I used a wand blender to puree the soup, you can also use a blender, just be sure to vent the top.   The soup ends up being a sort of beige color, it’s not very photogenic, especially given the unflattering overhead light in my kitchen.  What it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor! I ended up with about two quart sized Ball jars full of soup, which are quickly disappearing.

Best Hot Breakfast

Around this time last year I made a bunch of sauerkraut with my dad.  And then Dana and I discovered that it made an awesome compliment to fried eggs at breakfast.  So the sauerkraut went quickly.  When we planned our garden last spring, cabbages were on the top of our list.  Yesterday we harvested about a third of our crop: 22.5 pounds of cabbage.  Shredding it in the food processor went quickly and I layered the cabbage with 3 Tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage in one of our large pots.  Here’s the sauerkraut doing it’s lacto-fermentation under the weight of a big lid and some ball jars full of water.

Over 22 pounds of shredded cabbage turning into sauerkraut, this should last us a few months!

For a hot breakfast, how about a big handful of sauerkraut, plus eggs fried with onions, cumin seeds and paprika?  Try it as an alternative to a veggie omelet and get all the benefits of eating raw, naturally fermented food.  Then check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon!

Start your day off healthy with a big serving of fermented veggies at breakfast.

Ingredients:

A big handful or two of Sauerkraut, excess liquid squeezed out.  Set aside while you cook the onions and eggs to let the sauerkraut come up to room temperature.

Farm fresh eggs

Fat for frying: olive oil, butter or lard

Chopped onion or leeks (leeks are lower in sugars)

Whole cumin seeds

Paprika

Salt

Procedure:

Heat the fat in your skillet on medium.  Add the chopped onion or leeks and saute for a few minutes.

Add a generous sprinkle of the whole cumin seeds and let them cook for about a minute before adding the eggs to fry.  Cook your eggs, sprinkle with paprika and lightly salt, the sauerkraut will be plenty salty.

Onions and cumin seeds frying in lard from pork chops we cooked recently.

Serve the fried eggs and onions on top of the sauerkraut and serve immediately.  Dana likes his with 100% rye sourdough toast from these guys!

Chickpea Miso Seafood Soup

This winter has been one of major changes for me.   I presented 4 workshops in January and feel that I am officially over (it’s so last year) my fear of talking in front of groups.  I started a women’s wellness group and we are having so much fun and learning a lot as well!  Now I’m planning for more groups, for men and women, families and teens.  I’m looking forward to my presentation at Miss Halls School Health Fair at the end of February.  I will get to talk about what a health coach does, offer the students scholarships to The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and invite them to join me for my upcoming class series!

I have also done a lot of work on myself this past month.  In preparation for the Inner Quest Intensive at Kripalu I met in Great Barrington with Naturopath (and all around AMAZING lady) Pam Youngquist weekly for 4 weeks.  We did some talk therapy; some energy work and she gave me some thought provoking topics to journal on as well as some new techniques to help me heal on an emotional level from the Candida.  No matter what illness or imbalance you are trying to recover from, be it weight loss or chronic fatigue, you have to look at everything, from food to negative thought patterns, in order to really move forward.

Kripalu Yoga Center and grounds in Lenox MA

And after my weekend long Inner Quest Intensive I feel like I moved forward in my life, at about 90.  The IQI as described to me by others who have been through the program is that it’s like ‘several years of therapy in one weekend.’  There’s a lot to this program but that sums it up nicely.  It was a tough weekend and yes, it was totally worth it.  If you are interested in getting involved with Kripalu and live in the Berkshires, check out The Berkshire Kripalu Community!  You can apply for a membership which allows you to take Kriplau yoga at a discount as well as apply for scholarships to Kripalu programs.  You can also apply directly to Kriplau, a non-profit educational organization, for a scholarship to any one of their programs, which is how I was able to afford the Inner Quest Intensive.  Thank you generous Kriplau sponsors!!

During the IQI program we ate very simple, light foods.  There was usually miso or vegetable broth at each meal.  I was easing back into my normal diet (basically Kripalu food plus spices and garlic and hot sauce!) and so Dana made us miso soup with seafood for dinner.  Perfect.  This is the recipe he used as a guide for his soup.  Dana, of course, didn’t measure anything which means you’ve got a lot of leeway here with the amounts, use what you’ve got, improv the rest!

Someone took a nice picture of their version of Seafood Miso Soup, looks good enough to eat!

Seafood Miso Soup

  • 4 quarter-size pieces fresh ginger
  • 1 strip kombu kelp*, about 1/4 oz.
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced and rinsed well
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-in. matchsticks
  • 1 1/2 pounds black cod or Pacific halibut, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
  • 3/4 pound medium sea scallops (15 to 16 per lb.)
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), peeled, tails left on if you like
  • 1/2 cup shiro (sweet white) miso (we used chickpea miso)
  • 1/2 cup lager (preferably Longboard, optional, Dana left the beer out for ours)
  • Lemon zest/wedges (optional, but highly recommended!)
  • Thinly sliced shiso leaf (optional)

You can find kombu, a large seaweed sold dried, and bonito flakes with the Asian ingredients at well-stocked supermarkets and at natural-foods or Japanese markets. Find shiso, an aromatic herb, at Japanese markets and some farmers’ markets.

Preparation

  1. Bring 4 cups water, the ginger, and kombu to a boil in a large, wide pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 4 minutes. Turn off heat, sprinkle in bonito flakes, and let sit 3 minutes (flakes will sink)
  2. Add leek and carrots. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Add black cod and scallops; simmer 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes more.
  3. Whisk miso with lager or water in a small bowl. Remove stew from heat and carefully stir in miso mixture. Serve with lemon zest/wedges  and shiso for topping if you like.

Sunset
OCTOBER 2011

Roasted Baby Leeks with Thyme

Baby leeks dressed up in olive oil, garlic and thyme.

Baby leeks are just small leeks and there are two things that are exciting about them: a) the fact that they haven’t had the time to develop many green leaves or the fibrous structure that can sometimes make them stringy, and b) they’re definitely sweeter.   Also, Dana and I have an abundant crop of baby leeks since we planted them from seed, late in the season.  We harvested some yesterday and will pull the rest out soon, with pictures to follow, of course!

The purpose of quickly boiling them in water and then roasting them, as I’ve done in this recipe, is to make them deliciously soft and then to caramelize them so they develop a robustness that makes them wonderful served over or next to fish and meat. They will also add an interesting flavor to pastas or soups. You can do everything in the method below in advance apart from roasting them, so when it’s time to eat, all you need to do is flash them in the oven for 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

20 baby leeks
olive oil
red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

Procedure:

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Lightly trim both ends and peel back the first or second layer of leaves and discard.

Drop the leeks in a pan of boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes to soften – this is called blanching.

Drain them well (if there’s too much water in them they won’t roast properly) and toss in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, the chopped thyme leaves and the garlic.

Arrange the leeks in one layer in a baking pan or earthenware dish and roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes until golden and almost caramelized. Keep your eye on them – they will go from golden to burned quickly!

Serve as a side, with fish or meat, or add to a soup before you puree it for extra amazing flavor.

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver in his book Cook With Jamie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comfort Food: Leeks, Eggs and Bacon

Lovely leeks from my dad's garden last summer!

I just got back from a week in New York City, lots of walking and dancing and not nearly enough sleep.  Today I kinda feel like I have a travel hangover and I know just what I want need….comfort food!

I started with the last of the leeks from my dad’s garden last summer and some fat I trimmed off of a piece of pork.  I sliced the leeks thinly and added them, about 3-4 cups raw, to my cast iron skillet with about 1 Tablespoon pork fat and 2 Tablespoons butter.  I salted the leeks lightly and turned the heat to medium.

Cooking the leeks in pork fat trimmings and butter, guaranteed to be delicious.

I stirred occasionally, letting the leeks cook down and get a little bit browned.  While the leeks cooked I started a few pieces of thick cut bacon from a local farm in another skillet.  When the bacon was done I removed it from the pan and turned up the heat to fry a couple of eggs, also from a local farmer, in the bacon fat.

Eggs fried in bacon fat, leeks and of course, bacon, all locally grown and raised, a self-righteous meal if I've ever seen one!

And then I ate it, all of it, and it was freakin’ good. I know we don’t think of pork let alone bacon and lard as health foods but here’s a little fact to help you think differently:  pigs that graze in the forest on fallen fruits and acorns produce fat that’s actually healthy.  They turn the good fats in the acorns into good piggie fat, fat that’s full of omegas, very similar to the fat from nuts and seeds, imagine that!  I always buy local pork from farmers I trust.  This meat tastes amazing, is good for me and I know that animal was treated with respect, lived happily off the land and killed humanely.  I know this because I’ve talked with the farmer and visited the farm!

I don’t eat meat that often and when I do it’s usually because I need some strong, grounded energy.  This meal gave me exactly what I was looking for: green veggies, healthy, happy protein, plenty of energy and a full belly.  I don’t recommend eating this all the time but once in a while, it’s just right.

Back to Basics: Green Soup

Green soup with sriracha, mmmm!

I’m really looking forward to my workshop, ‘Food as Medicine’, that I am preparing for the Women’s Wellness Weekend at Becket-Chimney Corners.  I have been thinking a lot about which foods are truly medicinal for me.  When I’m not feeling well there are certain foods that always make me feel good, especially when my Candida is getting out of balance because of too much stress, too little sleep or hormonal fluctuations.  I realized that my go to Green Soup recipe is at the top of my good for me foods list.  And I have not been eating it! It’s so important to eat the foods that best support a healthy you and I think it’s time to incorporate Green Soup back into my diet.

This is the soup I ate while recovering from Candida, it’s very low in carbohydrates, very high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and easy to digest.   Green Soup goes really well with all sorts of herbs and spices that encourage a healthy internal balance.  It’s basically an immune boosting multi-vitamin you can eat as often as you like.   A few servings a week is about the right dose for me, enough to keep me healthy but not so much that I’ll be bored to tears eating it all the time.  It freezes well so I can make a big batch, put it into single serving containers in the freezer and take one out when I need it.  It’s very helpful for me to have some meals planned in advance that require only that I heat and eat.  If I don’t plan anything ahead I sometimes end up making less than awesome choices.  Here’s my basic recipe for Green Soup along with a few heat and eat serving suggestions so that you can customize the flavor of the soup.  This is very important as far as getting medicinal doses of different spices and herbs as well as keeping you and your taste buds happy!

Green Soup ingredients: leeks, kale, zucchini, broccoli, jalapeno and garlic.

Green Soup ingredients: leeks, kale, zucchini, broccoli, jalapeno and garlic.

Ingredients:

4-6 Tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil  (this is the only significant source of calories in the whole recipe so don’t be shy!)

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped or pressed

1 jalapeño, chopped.  Add more or less or none at all.  I used a whole one and still added spice to the finished soup.

3-4 large leeks, white/light green parts only, sliced thin in half moons

3-4 medium zucchinis, chopped into roughly 1 inch cubes

Veggie broth, about 4-6 cups

1 bunch of spinach or kale (I used kale today and really like the flavor!)

1 bunch of broccoli chopped into bite sized pieces.

*A note about broccoli:  My grandmother, who was a young girl during the great depression, explained to me that broccoli stems are for eating.  I often peel them and grate them up with cabbage when I make coleslaw.  Today I peeled the rough bits towards the end, chopped them up small and added them in with the rest of the broccoli.  Unless you are going to feed the stems to your farm animals or add them to your worm bin, please consider eating them!!

The Procedure

Over low-medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan add your oil, garlic, jalapeño and leeks, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are wilted and soft.

Sautéing leeks, garlic and jalapeno in olive oil.

Next, add in all the zucchini and keep on sautéing until the zucchini is soft.  About 8-10 minutes.

Add in the veggie broth, about 4+ cups to start with.  Honestly I never measure, I just pour water from the kettle and add a few of those handy broth concentrate packets from Trader Joe’s.  You can add more broth for a thinner soup but I prefer mine thick and more like stew.  Get the broth hot by turning the heat up to medium.

After you have added all the veggies adjust the broth so that the veggies are barely covered.

As soon as the broth is hot add in the broccoli and kale/spinach and cook until just tender.  DO NOT overcook the broccoli, over done broccoli is not awesome and a whole pot of over done broccoli soup will not get eaten.  I know because I have done just that and it was sad.

Remove from heat, use a wand blender or regular blender (make sure to vent the blender!!) to puree the soup.  Adjust for salt and add more broth if you want.

Now you have basic Green Soup.  I like to portion mine out into large servings, the soup is really low in calories so be generous with portion size!  Keep some in the fridge and some in the freezer for later in the week.

This is all the soup I had left over plus the big bowl I ate for lunch!

Variations….they are limitless but here are a few to start:

When you want to re-heat refrigerated or frozen soup, start with a tablespoon of oil in a pan large enough for the soup.  Heat up your spices over medium-low heat until they are fragrant and then add the soup and heat til it’s warm.  Add fresh or dried herbs at the end.

*another note: I think microwaves are weird and I don’t trust them so that’s why my instructions are always for the stove top.

Italian style: fennel, cumin, chili flakes, more garlic in olive oil.   Then basil, parsley and oregano to the warmed soup.

Curry: your favorite curry powder mix in coconut oil, heat then add coconut milk with the soup.  Add cilantro and or parsley at the end.

Sautee mushrooms in butter with salt and black pepper.  Add the soup and mix together.

Top with a dollop of unsweetened greek yogurt, or goat cheese,  this is especially great on spicy green soup.

You can eat this soup cold, like a green gazpacho, just add cilantro and parsley, a splash of vinegar and hot sauce.

Today I added some sriracha and about 2 teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar directly into my soup bowl for a tangy, spicy flavor.  There are more variations, I will post them as I try them out.

Please post your own suggestions and favorites!

Previous Older Entries