Sprung a Leek

Quick to complain and always searching for those little imperfections, it figures that we couldn’t just throw our hands up and celebrate this sudden mid-February thaw. Finally, Isis can actually walk out into the yard without being swallowed up into that white quicksand, and mailboxes are finally extricating themselves from frozen tombs. “Spring” is the word on everyone’s lips, spoken in excited tones, and I can’t hide my enthusiasm either. The winter took a steep toll, the full extent of which is only beginning to reveal itself now, after the storm. Despite all of these encouraging signs outside, all is not well inside.

Walking into the kitchen one day, I noticed a conspicuous wet spot on the tiled floor. Jumping to conclusions I immediately turned to the poor pup, assuming she had an accident in protest of the windy, inhospitable outdoor bathroom that otherwise awaited… But within a few seconds I discovered the real culprit.

Bloop… bloop… bloop…

Turning skywards, it was plain to see that water was dripping at a steady pace from the ceiling. Straight through the beam, down the wall, all across the kitchen counter and floor. Brown, dirty water, melted from snow and ice on the roof, soaking through papers and warping the cabinets. A greater horror in that room, I have yet to see, including my most misguided baking experiments. We had a leak, our first ever in this house, in arguably our most important living space – Not to mention my “office”. Tormented and terrified by these new destructive developments, I could do nothing except strategically position pots and pans to collect the mucky water.

After a solid two weeks of feeling like I’m living in a poorly constructed submarine, it seems that the leak has dripped itself dry, at least for the time being. Fearful glances upward now reveal obscene water damage; peeling paint, multiple holes, and cracked wood, but at the very least, no more water. I’ll take what I can get now, no complaints here.

As an homage to my structurally unsound ceiling, I simply couldn’t resist a very leek-y dish, hoping that perhaps an offering of food would placate the leaky ceiling god. When put in the spotlight, leeks are best prepared very simply if you ask me, and so I kept them fairly plain in this quick appetizer. A little heat to melt them and soften their more pungent edges is all it takes. What elevates the dish to a memorable morsel is the bright red romesco sauce, which provides a slightly spicy pop of creamy roasted pepper to perch those lovely alliums atop.

While I know that this assembly was created with the leeks in mind, I couldn’t help but go back to the romesco sauce, unadorned, for seconds. Versatile to a fault, I’ve already whipped up second and third batches to smoother pasta with, use as a dip, drizzle over salads, thin out for soups… You name it! This is a condiment you’ll want to have on hand at all times- Hopefully you won’t need to be prompted by leaky ceilings to try it the first time.

Leek-y Romesco Crostini

Romesco Sauce or Dip:

1/2 Cup Slivered, Toasted Almonds
1/4 Cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 Large Clove Garlic, Roasted
2 Medium Red Peppers, Roasted
1/2 Cup Strained Tomatoes / Tomato Puree
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste

Sauteed Leeks:

1 Fat Leek, Cleaned and Dark Greens Removed (Save them for making vegetable stock!) (3 1/2 Cups Chopped)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon White Miso Paste (Optional)
Pinch Salt and Black Pepper

Assembly:

Fresh Baguette, Sliced Thinly (About 1/2 cm Thick) and Lightly Toasted
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Beginning with the romesco, throw all of the ingredients for the sauce into your food processor or blender. Traditionally, it’s a bit of a chunky spread, but I prefer mine perfectly smooth and creamy, so I use my Vita-Mix. Blend to your desired consistency, scraping down the sides of the work bowl periodically so that no large chunks are left behind, and set aside. I find it tastes better if you allow it to sit for at least 2 hours before serving, so that the flavors can meld, but it can be eaten right away too.

For the leek topping, slice your thick leek into quarters lengthwise, and then chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. I love the look of rings or half moons, but it’s not so graceful to take a bite of crostini and end up with a big loop of leek hanging out of your mouth, so resist the temptation to leave the pieces larger.

Heat up the oil in a sautee pan over medium heat, loosen up the miso paste in it if using, and toss in the chopped leek. Stir every 5 minutes or so for a total of 20 – 25 minutes, until the leek is soften but not completely mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Both the sauce and leek topping can be made in advance as well. Just store both in air-tight containers in the fridge for 4 – 5 days, and assemble the crostini just prior to serving.

To put the crostini together, just smear a healthy dollop of the romesco on top of the toasted bread, and spoon about 1 – 2 tablespoons of the sauteed leek over that. Finish with a very light sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

Makes About 2 1/2 – 3 Cups Sauce; Servings Vary

Printable Recipe