Saturday, May 9, 2009

Wild Leeks

Wild Leek Loaf
Green and garlicky and fresh, wild leeks are going to star in my potluck contribution to the Women's Culinary Network meeting in Toronto on Tuesday evening. I am looking forward to seeing my foodpals and smoozing.

This is not a potluck like any other potluck and I did angst over the dish that I would slide onto the groaning board. Would my humble loaf sidle up to that of a well-known daily paper editor? Or would it rub rims with the globetrotting best selling cookbook author/photographer's exotica from Thailand? Who knows. But for sure I wanted to bring something that would tell a little bit about me.

Where to start? Probably with my moniker: Culinary Herbalist. THAT sounds good. Even though I tell people I am from Toronto, which I am, I live in the country now: Bruce County, Ontario's beef country and the gateway to the Bruce Peninsula. 

So why not bring something that speaks to wild herbs: Wild Leek Loaf. Perfect. 

But like anything, there is a knack to cleaning these small bulbs. You can see the shovelful that we took at the top of the blog. 
To clean wild leeks:
Grasp the leek in one hand.

Pull the short, dirty outer layers of white skin back over the roots.

Snap off the root end along with most of the dirt.
Wash bulbs and leaves in running water, drain and dry. 

Here is my recipe for one of the most flavorful plants found at our feet.

Wild Leek Loaf

1/3 cup chopped wild leeks, save 6 whole, with leaves for garnishing the top

2 cups chicken stock

½ tsp salt

1-1/2 cups couscous

3 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp garam masala

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp red pepper flakes, optional

1 small zucchini, diced

8 oz/228 g mushrooms, chopped

½ cup chopped roasted red bell pepper

1. Line a 2 L (8 cup) loaf tin with plastic wrap, letting it overhang on the long sides. Lay 1 or 2 the wild leek(s) on the base of the tin, set aside in a cool place. Set aside remaining whole leeks for garnish later.

2. In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in salt and couscous. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

3. Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onion for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the garam masala, coriander and red pepper flakes if using. Cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Add the remaining oil and cook the zucchini and mushrooms for 7 minutes, or until soft. Let cool.

4. Add the onion-mushroom mixture and the red bell pepper to the couscous. Cover and chill for an hour. Press the mixture into the tin, pressing it in and around the leek on the bottom of the tin. Fold the plastic wrap over to cover. Weigh down with food tins and chill overnight.

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All photographs and recipes are original and copyrighted to Pat Crocker. Pat invites you to use her recipes and share with family and friends. Please contact Pat Crocker for express permission for commercial, internet, or other use of her photographs and recipes.