Marcella Hazan’s Braised Leeks With Parmesan

A little crooked. Oh well.

A little crooked. Oh well.

The first time I became interested in leeks was when I read the book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. In it, she shares a recipe for “Magical Leek Soup,” which she drank in an effort to get back in shape. The leeks are boiled with salt and pepper, drained, and the liquid is drunk as a broth every couple of hours. It sounded interesting- and the author says her love affair with leeks began because of it- but I merely dismissed leeks as a vegetable I’d never get to cook with in India.

But as it turns out, one does get leeks here. Maybe not all the time and at every greengrocer, but you do. And in Pune they are easily available, so I’ve been cooking with them on and off. I attempted braised leeks for the first time a couple of months ago, and both my husband and I enjoyed them.

I made braised leeks a few more times after that, and all but forgot about them until I found this poem, A Leek Haiku on Eat This Poem. I am going to make this post short and sweet, much like the inspiration behind it: a haiku. Just 17 syllables, but this poem describes the little leek so, so beautifully. The author  calls leeks slender stalks of “ribbons and roots,” and, when you think about it, leeks are quite a pretty vegetable! I think they make a nice sight, the jade green tops peeking out from your shopper as you carry your groceries back home.

Leeks are full of flavour and I feel braising is one of the best ways to enjoy them- a little fat, some seasoning, and enough water to cook them till they are tender. This recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials Of Classic Italian Cooking. It takes little effort, and seems almost too simple to warrant a recipe, but it’s simply delicious. Her recipe says, “do not cut off the green tops,” but I had to trim a little because I didn’t have a pan large enough to accommodate.

BRAISED LEEKS WITH PARMESAN CHEESE (From Essentials Of Classic Italian Cooking)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large or 6 medium leeks
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

METHOD

  • Pull off and discard any withered, yellowing leaves from the leeks and trim the bulbous ends off the roots and the dark green parts of the leaves, leaving only white and light green parts.
  • Slit the leeks lengthwise into two.
  • Wash the leeks under cold running water to get rid of any hidden grit.
  •  Lay the leeks in a pan long and broad enough to accommodate them.
  • Add butter, salt and enough water to cover the leeks.
  • Cook covered on a medium low flame for 15-25 minutes, or until the thickest part of the leek at the base is fork-tender. (Turn them over with tongs every now and then as they cook.)
  • When the leeks are done, remove the lid of the pan, turn the heat up to high, and boil away all the juices in the pan, allowing the leeks to get lightly browned.
  • Add the grated parmesan, flip the leeks over to coat, and serve.

Sugar-Free Nutty Buckwheat Granola

 

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Ever since I discovered My New Roots, I’ve been experimenting with whole grains and other whole foods. (Incidentally, I discovered My New Roots via Suits star Patrick J Adams’ Instagram feed. So now we know Mike Ross likes his whole grains!)

What I love about the site is that Sarah breaks things down and explains why something is good for you- she doesn’t just preach about what to stay away from. She tells you why goat’s milk digests quicker than cow’s milk. Sweet potatoes aren’t just loaded with beta-carotene, they help digestion. Buckwheat is not a grain, but a seed!

I read about the benefits of buckwheat on Sarah’s blog, and began using buckwheat flour for muffins and pancakes.  She posted a granola recipe earlier this year using buckwheat groats, and I was toying with the idea of making my own. I’d actually been toying with the idea of making my own granola for a good year now, but I’d still end up buying those Nature Valley or chocolate chip Quaker Chewy Granola Bars at the store. (Which are probably as healthy as a Pop Tart.)

This obsessive idea that I would “one day” make my own granola led me to bookmark no fewer than 13 articles and recipes related to the art and craft of granola-making in my Evernote. Each time I’d come across a granola recipe or tutorial, I’d feverishly read it and clip it, like it would disappear if I didn’t lock it away in my digital safe. But I finally got my granola on today.

This week, when I went grocery shopping, I picked up a large jar of granola, examined it and put it back. I had just crossed a shelf with packets of buckwheat groats and rolled oats. My laziness took a backseat and I figured I might as well just take an hour out of my morning and bake my own granola already, especially since everything I needed was right under my nose.

Now the inspiration for this post comes from Sarah B, but the recipe is from Food52, one of my favourite cooking resources on the web. It’s quick, uncomplicated, and the Food52 version is vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free. I adapted it to suit what I had in the kitchen- so this one is sugar-free, but not vegan or gluten-free. (I’ve used honey in this recipe, which is considered an animal product by many.) The banana is a wonderful addition- it binds the granola together and keeps it pleasantly moist, without getting sticky. Plus, the combination of banana, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts makes this taste like banana-bread flavoured granola…and that can’t be a bad thing, right?

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It may seem like a lot of trouble- you know, compared to just hopping down to the store and buying granola off the shelf- but I think it’s worth it. The most time-consuming task for me was chopping the almonds, but if you have a nut-grinder than you can create some nut rubble in a few strokes. The dates needed pitting and chopping, but nothing monumental. And the good thing about doing it yourself is that you get to decide how fine or chunky you want the pieces. So no more cursing boxed granola that has specks of dried fruit that can literally slip between your teeth.

 

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SUGAR-FREE BUCKWHEAT GRANOLA (Adapted from Food52.)

INGREDIENTS

  • cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2cup mixed seeds and nuts (I used watermelon seeds, walnuts and almonds)
  • teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • teaspoon ginger powder
  • ripe banana, mashed well
  • tablespoons oil (I used canola, but Food52 suggests olive oil/coconut oil/almond butter)
  • tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins and dried fruit

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 170° C
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat, rolled oats, seeds + nuts, and spices.
  • Add the mashed banana, oil, and honey/maple syrup to the dry ingredients and mix well so that everything is coated.
  • Spread the mixture evenly across a baking sheet lined with Silpat and bake at 170° C for 20-30 minutes, until fragrant and golden. (You should gently stir the mixture at the halfway mark.)
  • Transfer to a bowl and fold in the dates, raisins and dry fruit.
  • Cool before transferring to a container.

2-Ingredient Nutella Brownies

I’m a big fan of 2-3-4-5 ingredient recipes. The ones which proclaim, right at the beginning, that they are by nature uncomplicated; you don’t need to go shopping for a long list of ingredients. It’s convenient. Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t like the Sandra Lee style of cooking- that semi-homemade stuff is just sinister. But I like using pantry staples like anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, tortillas and marmalade to create a meal.

Anyway back to the 2-ingredient recipe. I’m a fan of The Kitchn’s One-Ingredient Ice Cream, so when I came across this 2-ingredient brownie recipe I clicked right away.

I think we can all agree that Nutella is a great pantry staple to have on hand when you are pressed for dessert. (Or breakfast, or a snack.)  And if you want to bake something really good, really fast, without a lot of mise-en-place (you know, measuring out your flour-butter-sugar-baking powder-toasted nuts-what have you,) then this is the recipe you reach for: just eggs and Nutella combined deftly to create a rich, fudgy brownie in minutes.

 

Eggs: Whisk, fiercely.

Nutella: Heat in microwave; fold into eggs.

Bake.

I just did a brownie-baking haiku!

I know you don’t need another brownie recipe. And I know you don’t need another food blogger telling you that these brownies in particular, are the best. But if you are on the  “fudgy brownie” side of The Great Brownie Divide, (cakey vs fudgy,) then this gives you a fudgy brownie that is pretty darn good. Lovely crust, moist centre and easy to cut through. It’s so very simple that it’s hard to believe that just 2 ingredients can create such richness!

THE KITCHN’s 2-INGREDIENT NUTELLA BROWNIES (From The Kitchn.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup Nutella (slightly less than the 370 g/13 oz jars you get in the supermarket)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 175 c
  • Line the baking dish with enough parchment so that the paper hangs over the sides, it will be easier to pull the brownies out.
  • In the bowl of a freestanding mixer or by using a handheld mixer, whisk all 4 eggs. Begin on a low speed and increase it to high gradually.
  • Whisk until the eggs triple in bulk and turn a billowy yellow. (This takes from 6-8 minutes.)
  • While the eggs are whisking, warm the Nutella in the microwave in short bursts, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the Nutella is loose and pourable.
  • Fold the Nutella one spoon at a time into the egg mixture, until everything is evenly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool completely before cutting.