vegetable side dishes

Creamed Leeks

Creamed Leeks with Asparagus and Chicken

I needed a side dish for dinner the other night. I ended up making this leek dish and I loved how it turned out. This dish was an experiment that just worked. I love when that happens.

I had picked up some leeks at a local market the other day. They looked great, and I thought I might use them in soup. It is normally how I would use them. I am not sure where the idea to “cream” them came from, but I am glad it did.

Leeks are a member of the onion family. They look like green onions on steroids. You want to pick leeks with long, white stems.

Leeks have an onion flavor, but with lovely sweetness. I get asked all the time about how to prep them. They are full of sand and have to be prepped properly so you don’t get any grit in your food. The only edible part is the white and light green parts. The dark green leaves are tasty, but tough and can be used for making stock. Peel off the first layer of leaves. There is often a lot of sand there. Cut off the bottom about 1/2 -inch from the root. You should be able to see the rings, or layers, of the leek when you do this. Trim off any dark green parts at the top. You’ll have a trimmed leek at this point.

Now you have to clean it. Cut the leek lengthwise in half. Hold one half at a time under running water while fanning the leaves to dislodge any dirt. Take the rinsed halves and cut them into 1/2-inch slices. You could also cut them into thin strips, if you like. Place the slices in a large pan or bowl filled with cold water and agitate them to loosen any remaining sand. Use your fingers to separate the layers. Make sure the bowl is deep enough for the leeks to float several inches from the bottom. The leeks will float and the sand and dirt will sink. Let them stand a few minutes and then lift them out of the water to drain. Any grit will be at the bottom of the bowl.

If there is a lot of grit in the bottom of the bowl you might want to repeat the rinsing process one more time. It might sound like a lot of work but it really doesn’t take that much time and the leeks will be completely clean. I often buy a lot of leeks when they are on sale, then clean them all at once. I saute the cleaned leeks in oil and freeze for later use.

For the creamed leeks, I cooked the leeks in butter until soft. Then I added flour, half and half and seasonings. That was pretty much it. I will make these again soon.

 

Creamed Leeks

2-3 large leeks, trimmed and cleaned, cut into 1/2-inch slices

4 T. butter

5 T. flour

1 1/2 c. half and half

1 T. chopped parsley

salt,  pepper, hot sauce and dill to taste

In pot, combine leeks and butter and cook, covered,  over medium low heat until leeks are tender. Stir every few minutes. Add the flour and stir well. Turn heat up to medium. Slowly add the half and half, cooking until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Simmer a few more minutes to completely cook the flour. You can add a little more half and half if you like. Season to taste and serve. Serves 4.

 

Fresh Leeks

 

Baked Eggplant

Baked Eggplant

I love eggplant prepared in a lot of different ways. I must say, this preparation is one of my favorites. I think it is because it reminds me of my parents.

My mother used to bread and bake eggplant this way. My dad loved it- and he was not a big eggplant fan. I guess pretty much anything tastes better when breaded. She would top the eggplant with some cheese and sometimes with some marinara sauce.

I cut the eggplant in slices, but you could also cut them in strips and serve like French fries, if you prefer.

One of the problems  with eggplant is about how much oil it will absorb when cooking. If you fry these slices in a skillet- they will soak up the oil like a sponge. I prefer to bake the eggplant, with a drizzle of oil. They come out crispy, but not greasy.

They make a nice side dish or even main dish. I topped mine with fresh tomato sauce and Asiago cheese.   Mozzarella was what my mom used. I often use Parmesan cheese or a Pecorino Romano.

Baked Eggplant

1 large eggplant or 2 medium

salt

1 egg

1/2 c. milk or half and half

pepper

1 T. Tuscan seasoning* recipe follows or use another blend of Italian herbs

1 t. garlic powder

about 1 cup of bread crumbs

1/2 c. oil

1/2 c. Asiago cheese, or more

Peel and slice eggplant. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry. Prepare egg wash by mixing the egg with the milk or half and half, pepper, a little more salt, Tuscan seasoning and garlic powder. Place in a shallow bowl. Place bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. One slice at a time, dip eggplant in egg wash, then in the bread crumbs, turning to coat evenly. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Drizzle with the oil and bake for about 25 minutes. Turn slices after 15 minutes and continue baking until eggplant slices are golden brown and tender. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for 5 minutes longer. Serve as is, or with a marinara sauce. Serves 3-4.

 

*Tuscan Seasoning

½ c. dried basil

½ c. dried oregano

½ c. dried marjoram

3 T. dried minced onion

2 T. dried minced garlic

2 T. dried rosemary

2 T. dried parsley

1 t. crushed red pepper