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Today’s Harvest: Leeks

20 leeks

What to do with a surplus of leeks

More elegant and refined than an onion, leeks become silky and sweet when cooked. They’re the base of soups or risottos, partner to fish or potatoes. There is no shortage of recipes for leeks. But just in case you come into a surplus, as I just did in my garden, here are a few ways to use them in a hurry.

Dry leeks

Rehydrate them later for use in recipes. Here’s an oven method for drying leeks but you can also use a food dehydrator.

Freeze leeks

Clean and chop leeks. Pre-freeze them on a cookie sheet on a single layer (to prevent sticking together). Then put them in a freezer bag.

Make stock

With leek recipes, you generally use only the green and light green part. But don’t toss the dark green parts. They’re great for making stock. There are a million variations on vegetable stock. The easiest is to toss leeks, potato, carrots, celery and garlic (for starters) into a pot with water and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables.

Nip the bud

As if having too many leeks weren’t enough, you might also have let yours begin to flower (the Dr. Seuss-like tips shown above), as I have done. Like garlic tops (or garlic whistles), leek tops are delicious grilled or roasted. Chop them up and add to green, grain or bean salads. Toss into eggs or pasta. Or just eat them like an asparagus spear.

Let ’em bloom

Forget eating, leave some leeks in the garden and let them bloom. The long flower stems are just what the Dr. (Seuss) ordered for a wacky and wonderful look.

Spring Recipe: Asparagus Pesto

asparagus hazelnut mint pesto


Why wait to make pesto when the basil is abundant. You can put to work those long-awaited bundles of asparagus. You can pesto just about anything using a basic recipe as a guide and substituting similar ingredients. Here in the Northwest, I like to substitute hazelnuts for pine nuts to give dishes a more local flavor. Mint makes this pesto even more bright and springy.

Asparagus Hazelnut Mint Pesto Recipe Read more

Sorbets for the Season

Rhubarb strawberry sorbetAs quickly as summer finally appeared in the Northwest, it disappeared just as fast. We’re back to gray skies and cool weather. But a small window of much-anticipated hot, sunny weather was good excuse to whip up some rhubarb strawberry basil sorbet. You can sorbet almost anything. And sorbets are hard to ruin since they are essentially fruit, sugar, water and often lemon. Sometimes even vegetables. They can end a meal along with a cookie, or they can be used as a palette cleanser between courses.

Below is a recipe for the sorbet I made, but there are many recipes out there and they call for wildly different amounts of simple syrup (your sweet base) and even the ratio of sugar to water for the syrup itself. This means there is no right way or recipe. Some recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t want to use so I left it out. Read more

Year of Produce: January

One benefit of neglecting your garden, especially in winter, is that you might find a surprise if you bother to visit it—such as this lovely rose-like head of chicory (radicchio). I left it alone rather than harvest leaves for salads so I could grow a whole head. Torrential downpours followed by an extended cold snap all but destroyed the plants.

Then, a warm dry(ish) day lured me into the garden, which I had been avoiding because I have yet to remove the last of the tomato plants! The chicory bounced back with splashes of fuschia painted on the leaves. I also discovered so many scallions, I had to force some onto a friend.

This variety—Castelfranco variegata—hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy.  There’s a ghostly white variety, too. Its flavor is enhanced by cold weather, like many hearty winter greens. You can buy seeds from Nichol’s, a local Oregon nursery but they’re currently sold out. Who knew it was so popular? Read more

Year of Produce: December

To spend a quarter of December in Peoria, IL, called for extreme measures. Peoria might have an excuse in winter when it comes to fresh local produce. But from my casual observation, finding locally grown (and human-edible) produce is a challenge. The rich dirt of the vast surrounding farmland is home only to corn used for cattle feed and Twinkies. Rumor had it that a new gourmet market opened. I’d believe it when I saw it. But while an expensive gourmet market might offer better-looking organic produce than the limp bundles of kale at Kroger, it doesn’t address the problem of how little local land is used around the country to grow food for people who live there.

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