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02 March 2009

leeks

leeks

Winter slips into spring like toes dipping into warm water. We don't know if we can believe it. Will we freeze?

Sounds like those of you in the Northeast coast of the United States are nowhere near spring, except in days fluttering off the calendar. A foot of snow on the first day of March? You won't want to hear about how heart-stopped the billowy white clouds were against the blue sky in Seattle.

The other day, while walking with the Chef, we spotted the first purple crocus, amidst beauty bark. I stooped to pick it up. Little Bean sat in the Baby Bjorn kicking delightedly against the Chef's belly. She turned toward me and I offered her nose the crocus, to smell. She tried to eat it, her mouth open wide like a baby bird waiting for the first worm of the day. (I didn't let her eat it, by the way.) I know that crocuses have no discernible smell. I just wanted to her drink it in -- spring is coming.

Soon, there will be warm air blowing through the windows and wafting the white curtains. Can you believe that someday we will walk around in sleeves pushed up our arms, ice cream dripping onto our fingers, and lemonade with fresh rosemary waiting?

No, I can't quite feel it either. The heater is still rattling behind me, the light is only creeping slowly into the morning, and we all have jackets sitting slouched on the back seat of the car, just in case the air grows too cold for our walks.

We're in the nether region, neither here nor there. It's no longer full winter here (sorry, New York and Boston), but it's certainly not spring. The trees are bare, like cold hands eager to feel the air without gloves. Strong shoots of green appear in places, but mostly, the dirt yields only mud right now. We're not there yet.

This time, this potent time of longing, feels like a slow thawing, dripping and dripping, starting to open. It's only after you start to thaw that you feel the freezing behind you.

I've been thinking about Emily Dickinson this evening, the great and granite balm, the toughest woman I know (if only through her words). This one came back again.

"After great pain, a formal feeling comes --
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
The stiff Heart questions, was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round --
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought --
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone --

This is the Hour of Lead --
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --"


I am trying to thaw. My god, this has been a hard year.

I'm fine. And I don't want to explain. Life is more hilarious and sure than ever. Little Bean sat up on her own today, for the first time, swaying on her legs and correcting with sweeps of hands in the air. The Chef made roast pork, which he had brined overnight, with roasted carrots so sweet they brought tears to my eyes. We are, without a doubt, happy and here.

But some years are too painful to feel them all, as you live them. Later, it comes back.

So tomorrow, I will stand at the stove, feeling the low heat caress my face, and stir the baby leeks we bought at the farmers' market, in butter and oil, with just a pinch of salt. Probably a few tears will slip in, too. I'll wait, tempted to take them too early, and let them cook, slowly, until they are nearly melted, a soft smeared mess. Maybe some fresh mozzarella cheese, in shreds I will tear with my hands. A few splashes of balsamic vinegar, dark against the white. And wait, until they have all become something new, together.

Maybe by the time I am ready to eat them, it will be spring around here.

And you? How will you eat leeks?

34 Comments:

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Dea said...

we discovered at Christmas they were delicious roasted with olive oil and sea salt! :) They became soft and silky sweet and carmelized.

 
At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Ali (Whole Life Nutrition) said...

The day here in Bellingham was lovely too. What a wonderful day with that warm breeze to remind us that spring is near. Seeing those first bulbs poke through the ground is a welcome reminder also.

Congrats to Lucy for sitting!

And leeks, well I like to make potato leek soup, dairy-free. Leeks in soup stock is nice too. Lightly roasted in olive oil with other spring veggies and a dash of Herbamare is also delicious.

We grew leeks in our garden last year. They grow well here in the northwest.

-Ali :)

 
At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Meg said...

I eat leeks in anything and all winter long. Braised in chicken broth and topped with a cheese sauce. In leek and potato soup. In stir fries. Roasted with those carrots you mentioned.

And best of all - they are the best addition to home made baby food. Throw in a few inches (sliced) when you are steaming carrots, or potatoes, or peas or whatever you are feeding your little one. My second son started refusing plain vegetable purées once I introduced leeks into the equation!

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger Janel said...

One great thing about living in Holland is that leeks are everywhere, cheap, and delicious.

Aside from the classic leek & potato soup, my favorite way to eat them is in a quiche with ham that I learned from a friend's mother while living in France fifteen years ago. I've long since made it gluten free.

Leeks are also a wonderful way to flavor cheese fondue.

 
At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anne said...

Sliced and gently fried in butter with bacon lardons until the leeks melt, then just before serving (with a jacket potato, or pile of gf pasta) I'll add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 
At 2:34 AM, Blogger Gemma said...

I think I'll eat the leeks your way, it sounds great. Otherwise I'll cook them in butter until soft and sweet before mixing in some cooked bacon and adding to pasta. Such comfort food.

Thinking of Little Bean we had friends over last night with their teething six month old son, he was getting pretty grizzly so I peeled a frozen banana (I advise peeling before freezing, much easier than using a veg peeler to scrape away the frozen skin!) for him which, after the initial shock of the cold, cheered him up no end. Tasty and soothing, his parents were delighted.

 
At 2:56 AM, Blogger bleu said...

One of my very favorite pieces of hers....fitting at so many different times in life.

The first time I had leeks was in the UK cooked by a Welsh girl. So yummy.

 
At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blanched the leeks for about 5 mins before sautéing gently with a blue cheese until it is wonderfully combined; to be eaten with pasta (gluten free of course) or my favourite a piping hot baked potato.

 
At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Katherine said...

Gently softened in butter, perhaps with some mushrooms, but they are great on their own. Finished with lemon juice and creme fraiche, coriander and fresh ground black papper, served with GF pasta.

YUM

 
At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Katherine said...

Gently softened in butter, perhaps with some mushrooms, but they are great on their own. Finished with lemon juice and creme fraiche, coriander and fresh ground black papper, served with GF pasta.

YUM

 
At 6:01 AM, Anonymous beyond said...

caramelized in olive oil with sea salt and pepper. and leek and potato soup of course, dairy free for my husband.

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger Adrienne said...

I just discovered leeks this winter, and how did it take me this long??! So far, my favorite way to eat them is braised, after a quick sear in olive oil with thinly sliced shallots. Yum.

 
At 6:51 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

Can't really think about leeks! Let the tears come my dear. Some years are just darn hard even though most everything is well. Just that one thing can overwhelm and do you in. We have had great joy in our house with Tina's recent tenure and promotion, and disappointment as well with my health. This journey with celiac disease is not easy!

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger monique said...

Funny that you should mention leeks. I don't eat them very often, but I used some last week in a roasted red pepper soup, and there were plenty left over. So last night, we used them instead of onions in some chicken fried rice (to use up leftover rice from the stir fry the day before). Yum.

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Mamadoo said...

Leeks: if they're becoming a soup, then we will eat them fried with bacon and perhaps eggs.

My autistic daughter ("Doo") has just become gluten free this year and I found your blog while looking for bread recipes. It's been a hard time for our family, and it's nice to focus on good things while not denying the serious and the sad.

Thank you for this blog, and for this post in particular. I look forward to reading your book and to trying your bread recipe.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Lovely post. Thank you.

 
At 9:35 AM, Blogger rebelgirl7 said...

Leeks in cheese sauce. Basic cheese sauce is butter, milk, cornstarch and a nice grated cheese like Havarti. Yum! Or Leek and Potato soup on a cold winter night.

 
At 9:41 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Leeks are a staple for me. Had them last night in a homemade chicken stock soup with potatoes, onions, kale and parsnips.

I also love them stir-fried with Italian kale and oyster mushrooms. They go into quiche, and into my bean and bacon cassoulet.

They really need to go into my garden this year. They are fairly expensive and easy to grow! (and then I can say, "I've sprung a leek." Groan.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Anna Lee said...

So fun that Lucy is sitting up on her own!! Yay!

I like to caramelize my leeks, add some sliced mushrooms and sliced sausage and cook that down a bit, and then add it to my minestrone soup just as I pull the soup off the heat. So Yummy!

Winter is a time of solace, reflection, and hibernation. It is a time when the world around us is not as seductively distracting. This allows us to have the solace necessary to reflect, and heal from the year past, and then grow into spring and anticipate the yield of the coming year.

 
At 9:47 AM, Anonymous StuffCooksWant said...

potato leek soup...but only in the winter...can't eat soup in the summer, just as I can't eat salad in the winter.

I think I'll try them your way...that sounds divine!

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put a cup of sliced leeks and a cup of heavy cream in the saucepan with a pinch of sea salt. Slowly simmer until the leeks are melted and the cream is thickened (about 15 minutes). re-taste for salt.

This leek cream is magical when stirred into mushroom risotto just before serving.

Also terrific when used to plate a juicy pan-fried salmon fillet.

 
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband just came home with three great leeks as an addition to the pot of British onion soup that we're making tonight for a friend. I saw Jamie Oliver make it on Jamie at Home this weekend (which I always wake up early to watch because after hearing about it on your blog!) and couldn't resist making it tonight. I live in Boston so we still really need some soup around here!

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Lianne Raymond said...

I know that crocuses have no discernible smell. I just wanted to her drink it in -- spring is coming.

I like that you held it up to her nose even though you "knew" it didn't smell. It feels like you were allowing for the possibility that her experience of it (and the world as a whole) may be different than yours - and you were opening her to that possibility. A wonderful gift for a mother to give a child.

 
At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Welsh cock-a-leekie soup, simmered slowly on the stove all day. Sliced thin and braised in butter until soft and sweet, then layered on top of stovies (Scottish-style potatoes). Simmered in pan juices to make a gravy for chicken.

Our garden is full of tender young leeks, wintered over in the mild climate of southern Oregon, so we're reveling in them.

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

I have not eaten leeks. However, the tears you mention bring to mind the book Like Water for Chocolate. These tears that fell into the wedding cake batter were magical causing the wedding guests to cry tears as well. This is a perfect read for a true foodie. Enjoy.

 
At 6:32 PM, Blogger Cate said...

We'll grill them, sliced in half and drizzled with olive oil (or maybe melted butter, depends on which way the wind is blowing) and salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Or maybe we'll chop them roughly and throw them in a pot with some butternut squash, let them soften up a bit -- the base of a lovely soup, but we'll just eat it whole instead. I love seeing leeks peep out of grocery bags; it makes me think someone is thinking of something good to eat.
Thank you, Shauna.

 
At 7:00 PM, Blogger Sara said...

You must have gotten to the farmers market much earlier than me, no leeks when I got there! I am quite jealous! :) your writing is so beautiful, and so often your writing conveys how I've been feeling. thank you!

leeks? i love leeks! sauteed as a start to just about anything, potato leek soup (hot and chunky, not cold and thin! can't be that french in the winter ;), with kale or pasta or eggs...

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Erika said...

My favorite uses for leeks are salmon and leek quiche, and cauliflower and leek risotto. But I think they're so perfect in just about everything, and always throw them in a frittata and in stir-fry. Leeks are great with zucchini! Aachhh. I could go on and on.

 
At 8:54 AM, Anonymous smallbluebird said...

Lovely, lovely post. When we were in Washington DC for the inauguration, I was smitten by those cherry trees so bare and lonely looking until my friend said that they were just resting. Now as I walk in my town, I see that resting trees are slowly waking up from their slumber. So very beautiful this in-between time. Oops, seems I forgot to think about leeks.

 
At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

Winter still surrounds me here in Cambridge, MA, but your words warmed both my heart and mind. With leeks, I usually combine them with roasted butternut squash and (true gluten-free) risotto.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Sarit said...

such a poetic post. thank you much for sharing it. never cooked leeks before but you make it sound so easy...i think I'll give it a go. thank you gluten-free girl.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger milhan said...

Cooked in a little water with carrots and a handful of rice, olive oil, fresh dill, salt & pepper. Remove everything w/a slotted spoon when done and transfer to a plate, bring to room temperature, and then drizzle more olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

 
At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cut them into disks and slow roast them with potatoes in white truffle oil, salt, pepper and some piment forte from Mustafa's.

 
At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, my name is Ro and i am a gluten free girl. I live in argentina and i am going to be in Boston-Cambridge for 2 month! sombody knows a good place to eat there? Here in Argentina i eat delicious things, like cookies, pizzas, etc... I dont caer to be celiac!! hohoho xoxox!



Ro!! :)

 

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