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!

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Zucchini and Basil Sautee

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy all the zucchini that’s super fresh right now.  And it’s really easy, just some time and a few ingredients and you’ve got a healthy delicious side dish or meal to go picnicking with!

Ingredients:

Zucchini

Onion

Butter and/or Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Basil

Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method:

Chop up some onion, I usually use about a 1 to 4 ratio of onion to zucchini.

Add the chopped onion, a few pinches of salt (go easy on the salt if you plan to add cheese to the finished dish, which I highly recommend!) and a healthy dose of butter and olive oil to a heavy bottom pan, the wider the pan the better.   You’ll start with a lot of fat in the pan to cook the onions and then when you add the zucchini you can decide if you need to add more.  Cook the onions on medium heat.

While the onions cook, chop your zucchini.  I make some pieces smaller than others so when it cooks, the smaller bits get mushy and the larger bits keep their shape so you don’t end up with baby food.  Or maybe you end up with baby food, it’s really delicious either way!

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

When the onions begin to look translucent, add in the zucchini, some black pepper and saute, stirring all the while, til smushy and starting to brown on med to medium high heat.

Sautee the zucchini and onions

Saute the zucchini and onions

Once you’ve cooked the zucchini down, it will release a lot of water, so plan on stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes til you get a nice, thick consistency.  Take it off the heat and serve topped with fresh chopped basil and shredded hard cheese like Romano.  This tastes great warm or at room temperature and makes a nice take along meal for picnic’s or pot lucks.

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

Sicilian Cauliflower and Black Olive Gratin

I found this recipe on the New York Times web site and was excited to try cooking cauliflower a new way.  When Dana and I arrived for Sunday dinner at my parents house last week this cauliflower and olive dish was just coming out of the oven!  It was yummy but we all agreed: more cheese, smaller olives.  So I have changed the recipe just a bit based on how the original recipe turned out.

Goes well with red wine!

Goes well with pork roast from Holiday Farms : – )

Ingredients:

  • 1 generous head green or white cauliflower (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 imported oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut in half or chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan
  • note: The Romano is delicious but because it’s lower in fat it doesn’t get nice and gooey when it melts.  Use half mozzarella with a really flavorful Romano or use 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar instead.

Procedure:

1. Break up the cauliflower into small florets while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and drop in the cauliflower. Boil 5 minutes while you fill a bowl with ice and water. Transfer the cauliflower to the ice water, let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain and place on clean tea towels.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin dish. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes, and add a pinch of salt and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until fragrant and translucent. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.

3. Place the cauliflower in the baking dish and add the onion and olive mixture, the remaining olive oil, the parsley and half the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir together well. Spread out in the dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: Serves 6

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Advance preparation: The cauliflower can be cooked and refrigerated for up to three days. The dish can be prepared through Step 2 several hours before assembling the gratin. Hold on top of the stove or in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving: 177 calories; 13 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 9 milligrams cholesterol; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 377 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

Green Beans with Bacon and Cider Vinegar

For the past few days I have been wondering if I would ever be able to access this blog again!  Wordpress is great but they seem to have very strange policy’s when it comes to account access.  Anyway, my friend Lizzy helped me out and, we’re back!  I found this recipe in ‘Hobby Farmer’ magazine which started showing up at my house for some reason.  A well intentioned but forgotten Christmas gift perhaps?

A word about bacon, and meat in general:  When I was 16 I stopped eating meat and was a vegetarian for 12 years.  I was horrified by the animal cruelty I knew was going on behind the highly guarded doors of factory farms and slaughterhouses across our country.  I knew the one thing I could do was to not participate in this disgusting, immoral, environmentally devastating and completely unhealthy system.  Today I am lucky to live in what the New York Times calls the epicenter of the local food movement.  I’m far from wealthy, in fact just two years ago I was relying on food stamps to buy my organic, local foods.  Meat in the grocery store, really any animal product that is not from a sustainable, certified organic, free range, healthy farm, is, I guarantee you, from a sick and abused animal.  It’s full of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides: chemicals that will only make you and our planet more and more unhealthy.  If you have 10 bucks to buy meat, consider eating it only once or twice a week instead of buying the cheap stuff.  There is nothing more costly than cheap food.  And animal products from eggs to bacon to cheese from healthy, happy animals are really good for you and taste much better, you know, like actual food!  So enjoy your bacon, knowing you are doing the right thing by supporting organic, ethical farmers and their healthy animals.  Stop buying into the myth that cheaper is better and that the meat on sale is anything but poison for your body, mind, spirit and OUR environment.

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh green beans

1 cup water

4-6 slices of thick cut bacon, diced – The Meat Market, Berkshire Organics, Holiday Farm are a few of many places in the Berkshires to get high quality, healthy animal foods.

2/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

salt, pepper and a dash of stevia or honey, to taste

Procedure:

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, cook the beans in water until they are tender.  Drain the beans and reserve about 3/4 cup on the cooking liquid.

In a large, heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat, saute bacon and onion until the onion is lightly browned.  Add reserved bean liquid and cook until it has reduced to 1/4 cup.  Add vinegar and sweetner and stir well to combine.

Add the cooked beans and heat through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Original recipe from page 77 of the January/February issue of “Hobby Farmer”

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!