Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free: pureed leeks
This recipe is linked up to October’s Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free. It’s a wonderful monthly blog carnival created by the lovely and talented Naomi over at Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried. This month, Diane at The Whole Gang is hosting and she has chosen Scared Silly as her theme. She explains these recipes are ones “using foods you were once scared to eat. Only after you tried them did you realize it was silly to be scared of them”.
Personally, I’m not necessarily scared silly about eating leeks. But, they tend to be problematic in the sense that a fair amount of home cooks have misgivings about how to prepare them. Up until very recently, the only place I have felt comfortable using them is in my chicken soup. Surely, they must have more versatility than that. A quick internet search confirmed my sullen suspicions: an innumerable amount of recipes for potato leek soup. Not too compelling is it? It’s such a shame, really. They truly are a beautiful vegetable.
Leeks (like shallots) are not only underutilized but also underrated, in my honest opinion. The lend a very subtle, sweet flavor to your food and provide a milder flavor than onions. Which is why, I presume, I prefer them in my soup. In my quest to give leeks their due, I learned that they contain some considerable phytonutrients. Along with her cousins garlic and onions, leeks possess heart protective qualities. Low in calories, they boast a fair amount of manganese, vitamin C, iron and folate. How do you select a leek? Great question. You want a nice-sized, plump yet firm leek. The dark green colored portion of the stalk, which is edible but supremely tough, should be trimmed away and discarded. As such, it is important to select leeks that have a generous white-portioned stalk. Avoid ones with wilted, browned/bruised, cracked or (worse) dried-out outer layers. Most importantly, this puree is going to taste best when leeks are in peak season: late summer through very late autumn. Since they tolerate cold weather well, it’s not surprising to see them in winter.
The other day, I was reading one of my old French cookbooks that made a faint reference to a leek puree (no recipe though). On a whim, I used the leeks from my CSA box to see if I could replicate the idea in my head. Around that same time, I was contemplating how to get more vegetables into my toddler. Seriously? YES. She ate half the bowl of puree. And with 2 ingredients, I feel great about giving it to her.
This recipe is for the many people who cannot tolerate potato for one reason or another. My diabetic father is a case in point. Potatoes wreak havoc on his numbers because they are a simple carbohydrate. Meaning, the potato causes a spike in his blood sugar. Thankfully, he’s never been a big sweets/desserts person. But, he does love a good hearty meal. I empathize with him and his inability to enjoy certain foods, especially around the holidays. As a result, I am consistently in search of new ways to give him the semblance of eating carb-rich foods like the rest of us. Last year, I made him celery root (celeriac) puree instead of mashed potatoes. This year it’s going to be leek puree.
This Thanksgiving, my hope is that he’ll be savoring each bite with the sentiment that he’s not missing out on one single thing. My friend who taste tested this recipe for me had these profound words to offer, “how is it that I have been missing out on this my entire life? It’s amazing.” My sentiments exactly. It’s not what you would expect. It’s mild, creamy, and more-ish. Seriously, one bite and you’ll be smitten too.
3 cups chopped organic leeks (this ended up being 3 leeks)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste – (I used a 1/4 tsp)
1.) Cut off the leek roots and the green stalks. Discard. You only want the white and very pale green parts here. Making a shallow slit down the length of the stalk, remove only the very outer layer of the white portion and discard (usually it’s quite damaged and tough). Using a sharp knife, make a deep vertical cut so that the leek opens and faces up. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes to get all the sand out. Trust me on the sand part – the last thing you want is sandy puree.
2.) Meanwhile, get your vegetable steamer ready. Remove the leeks from the water and pat dry with a towel. Cut into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch segments (so it all cooks evenly). Steam on medium-high heat for 20 minutes. Try to only remove the lid once while steaming to give it a quick redistribution stir. You know it’s done steaming when it’s wilted and the color becomes translucent. If you taste one – it literally melts in your mouth. It’s also so soft that you wouldn’t hesitate giving it to small child (no choking hazard). If the leeks look or taste too stringy or fibrous they are not yet fully cooked.
3.) Remove from heat and place in a heat proof bowl with high enough sides so it doesn’t splatter. Using an immersion blender, stream the 1/4 cup oil in with one hand as the other hand uses the blender to puree the leeks. Season with salt. Side note: I’ve also used my Kitchen Aid Pro-Line blender for this recipe. Although I prefer the results using my immersion blender, the blender version works just fine.
4.) Serves 2-4 people. PS – I’m definitely doubling this for Thanksgiving :)