Leeks add flavour, texture and diversity to the fall menu

Fresh leeks look a lot like large green onions with flat rather than hollow leaves. Select those with a thick cylindrical, unmarked white stalk with tightly wrapped bright green leaves. Smaller ones are more tender. To prepare, cut off roots and discard, cut off the large dark green leaves, and add to soup stock for flavour. Keep the white end and pale green leaves for use in favourite recipes or freeze for later. | Betty Ann Deobald photo

Leeks were a new addition to my garden this year.

Due to knee surgery in early May, I decided there would be no garden this summer. In hindsight, considering the little rain we had, it was a wise decision.

In June, as I became more mobile, I visited a local green house, and got some leeks and a few peppers. I had used leeks before, but I had never grown them. I found they were very easy to grow, even with limited watering and the late planting.

Leeks look like large green onions with flat rather than hollow leaves. They are related to both garlic and onion but have a milder flavour and fragrance. Look for a thick cylindrical, unmarked white stalk with tightly wrapped bright green leaves.

Select smaller leeks because they are more tender. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for four to five days.

To prepare leeks, cut off roots and discard. Remove the large green leaves and use to add flavour to broth or freeze them for later when making soup stock. Keep the white end and pale green leaves.

The white part of the leeks is grown below the ground to keep them pale. Often dirt accumulates between the layers. To clean, cut in half lengthwise and soak in water for a few minutes to loosen the dirt, swish in the water, then rinse under cool running water. Fan the leaves to rinse out the dirt.

Once cleaned, cut up and freeze for later use or add to a favourite recipe.

Leeks are compatible with many foods but are especially good with lemon, butter, cheese, cream, fennel, potatoes, garlic, chicken, ham, dill, nutmeg, parsley and chives. Slice thinly to use as a garnish for soups, salads, roasted vegetables, meat or fish.

Carrot and pear bisque soup

When I harvested my leeks this was the first recipe I thought of. It is so delicious and flavourful. This soup recipe was sent to me by a friend who is also a reader of this column, Linda Dyck of Biggar, Sask. Linda’s daughter and family call this soup a family favourite. It is a quick and easy soup to make and freezes well for cool fall days.

A bisque is traditionally a rich, thick soup that often contains seafood, chicken or vegetables and is puréed before serving. Often a bisque will contain cream.

  • 2 leeks1 1/2 c. 375 mL
  • 3 tbsp. butter 45 mL
  • 6 large or 12 medium carrots
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled
  • or 1 apple
  • 1 tsp. Indian curry paste, preferably mild 5 mL
  • 8 c. low-sodium chicken broth – 2 cartons 900 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sour cream and chopped chives, optional

Slice off and discard roots and dark-green tops of leeks. Cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out and rinse under cold water to remove grit. Thinly slice. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add leeks. Stir occasionally until very soft, about five to eight minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice carrots and chop pear. When leeks are soft, stir in carrots, pear and curry paste. Pour in a little broth. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up and stir in any brown bits from pot bottom. Stir in remaining broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until carrots are very tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Turn off heat and use a hand blender to blend until smooth. Alternatively, purée small amounts in a food processor or blender. Be cautious and hold the lid on securely as the hot soup will explode out of the top.

Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped chives.

Note: To reduce the fat content skip the sour cream, it tastes great without it.

Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

Creamy mushroom and leek chicken breasts

This sauce is a family favourite that I usually make with onions. The leeks add a wonderful mild flavour. This sauce works well with pork chops as well. This is a quick and easy meal that doubles well for company. Serves four.

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 1/2 tbsp. canola oil 7 mL
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, gently cleaned with a damp paper towel16-18
  • 3 leeks, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds, white and pale green parts only
  • 1/8 tsp. salt .05 mL
  • 1/3 c. white wine 75 mL
  • 1 c. sour cream 25 mL

Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken breasts horizontally, starting at the thicker end of the breast, to create two thinner cutlets. Season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add one tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of oil. When butter is melted add chicken breasts. Cook undisturbed until chicken is cooked through on one side, about three to four minutes. Turn nicely browned chicken over, only turn over once. Cook an additional three to four minutes or until the thickest part of chicken reaches 160 degrees F (71 C). Transfer to a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

To skillet add one tablespoon of butter. Add mushrooms and leeks to skillet, plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Cook while stirring occasionally for about five minutes or until mushrooms are softened and leeks are limp. Remove two tablespoons of mixture from the pan and set aside to use as a garnish.

Add wine and continue to cook for two minutes. Add sour cream, stir to combine, add chicken breasts back to pan to reheat.

Serve with noodles. Cooked noodle can be added to sauce before serving or place chicken on noodles and pour sauce over. Garnish with mushroom and leeks that were set aside.

Cheddar, baby leek and tomato sandwich

These toasted sandwiches have a wonderful flavour.

  • 4 thick slices of sourdough or French bread
  • 3 tbsp. butter, room temperature 45 mL
  • 2 small leeks, white part only, julienned
  • 2/3 c. shredded white cheddar cheese 150 mL
  • 4 slices firm tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise

Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Spread butter evenly on one side of each bread slice, place two slices, butter side down, in pan.

Top with leeks, half of the cheese, tomato slices, and salt and pepper to season, then add remaining cheese. Spread mayonnaise on unbuttered side of remaining two bread slices, place mayonnaise side down on sandwich. Toast until golden brown, then flip, and brown the other side. Adapted from allrecipes.com

Using The Garden Harvest

Harvesting the garden and storing the produce for the winter months are common fall activities. Most families have favourite recipes that are particularly enjoyed when made with freshly harvested fruit and vegetables.

We would love to share your family’s favourites. Please send them to Harvest Favourites at team@producer.com or mail them to:

The Western Producer,
1000–3530 Millar Avenue,
Saskatoon, SK S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by November 8, 2021.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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