Leek, Lemon and Thyme Risotto

by editor on November 14, 2010

Leek, Lemon and Thyme Risotto

I love the slow, simple Sunday night suppers that conclude crazy weekends. This particular crazy weekend involved considerable quantities of fun, food and wine and 50 adventurous women enjoying dinner at one very long banquet table in Woodinville wine country. As part of the team organizing the event, when I arrived home and saw a bunch of leeks waiting patiently on the counter, I knew I was ready to spend an evening hanging out by the stove lazily stirring dinner, glass of wine in hand, mind wandering through new ventures and adventures schemed over the weekend.

I can’t imagine Fall and Winter without leeks. A staple vegetable in two places close to my heart – France and Scotland, they actually grow year round but really come into their own during the more sparse months and if you’re thoroughly bored by Leek and Potato soup, don’t ” Cock-a-Leekie” and “Gratin de Poireaux” sound far more interesting? This sturdy vegetable is a member of the alium family, along with onions, green onions, garlic and the smaller wild leek or “ramps” (aka poireaux baguettes if you’re in France), and its complex sweet, oniony flavor pairs well with seafood and dairy, particularly cheese. Leeks also happen to be highly nutritious.

Comforting, creamy and warm, this brightly flavored risotto makes a delicious and completely satisfying supper when paired with your favorite crusty bread. As a side, it pairs nicely with pan-fried salmon or roasted pork tenderloin. Some delicious variations: add a handful of cubed, sautéed pancetta; add some mushrooms to the leeks at the sauté stage; mix in some shredded roast chicken;

Leek lemon thyme risotto ingredients

Leek, Lemon and Thyme Risotto
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp/1oz unsalted butter
12oz leeks (about 2 large leeks)
6 green onions
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped + 1 tbsp whole thyme leaves for sprinkling
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
6oz/150g Arborio rice
6 fl oz/180ml dry white wine
25 fl oz/750ml chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
2oz/57g parmesan, grated and divided
2 tbsp freshly squeeze lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
Mascarpone for serving (optional)

Place stock in a 3qt pot and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to very low, and keep stock just below a simmer.

Place olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large sautee pan over a medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in leeks, green onions and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Watch carefully to ensure leeks don’t brown as they will become bitter.

Stir in 1 tsp chopped thyme, lemon zest if using, then add Arborio rice, stirring to coat grains with oil.

Add wine, and cook for a few minutes to reduce, stirring frequently. Add hot stock to rice one ladleful at a time, stirring slowly and constantly. Wait until most of the stock is absorbed before adding another ladleful. Rice is done when it has softened but still has a little bite to it (you may not need to use all of the stock to reach this stage).

Remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice, half of parmesan and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve sprinkled with remaining parmesan, chopped thyme, and a swirl of fresh mascarpone if desired.


Tabbouleh with Semi-Dried Cherry Tomatoes

by editor on September 2, 2010

Tabbouleh with Semi-Dried Tomatoes

I’m always intrigued by how a barely discovered and exciting culinary trend in one country is just terribly passé in another. Semi-dried tomatoes or “Pomodoraccio” if you buy them in jars, are what slavish followers of food trends might call “over” in Europe, however I rarely see them here in North America, which is a little sad as they are almost effortless to make, and taste like the height of a hot Mediterranean summer.

If you haven’t tried these soft, chewy and savory-sweet gems yet, it’s worth the few minutes it takes to chop up and scatter some tomatoes and deposit them into the oven. Even bland and unremarkable tomatoes will transform into concentrated, candied morsels with the flavor of very fresh sun-dried tomatoes and the texture of slightly chewy roasted tomatoes, and you’ll want to use these everywhere.  

I added my latest batch of these umami-laden semi-dried cherry tomatoes to this fresh tabbouleh, which is not strictly traditional, but a happy recreation of a salad I enjoyed during my last visit to London. The flavors are a little Greek, a little Middle Eastern and you could say this salad comes from somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

Semi-Dried Tomatoes

Tabbouleh with Semi-Dried Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup bulghur (or quinoa if you are gluten-free)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup mint, measured unchopped and loosely packed
1 1/2 cups parsley, measured unchopped and loosely packed
1/2 large english cucumber, chopped into medium dice
1/3 cup sliced green onions (use both white and green parts)
8oz/half can of garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium, or 1 1/2 large lemons) + more to taste
3 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
7oz block feta, broken into pieces by hand or carefully with a fork.

To make the semi-dried cherry tomatoes
Preheat oven to 320F. Dry tomatoes thoroughly after washing. Cut in half lengthways (so the seeds/pulp don’t fall out) and place cut-side up in a single layer in a …pan. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until edges are drying out but tomatoes have not started to blacken. Remove from oven and leave in pan to cool completely. Note: For drying regular sized tomatoes, reduce oven temperature to 210F and bake for up to 4 hours.

To make the tabbouleh
Place bulghur in a medium bowl, pour in water, stir gently then leave to soak for an hour. Drain of any excess water using a sieve, and place drained bulghur in a large bowl. If substituting quinoa, prepare according to package directions.

Roughly chop mint and parsley, and stir into bulghur. Stir in cucumber, green onions, garbanzo beans, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and cumin. Gently mix in tomatoes and feta.

Refrigerate for at least  two hours, to allow flavors to blend and develop (the longer this dish sits, the better the flavors). I usually wait until after this resting period to determine if I need to adjust seasoning with a little more salt.

Serve with pita chips or freshly made pita bread.