Tag Archive for crostini

Leeks & Goat Cheese Crostini

Leels, beautiful leeks....

Leeks, beautiful leeks….

Leeks, one of my favorite cold weather vegetables, are the stars of many slow-cooked comfort dishes. They are however often used in combination with other vegetables, where they silkiness and mellowness have a supporting role: think soup, especially leek & potatoes. But they are superb as the main vegetable as in leek tart or as in this recipe,  slow-cooked with plenty of butter and finished with fresh tangy goat cheese.

Do choose healthy thick specimens with the longest possible shaft – the white part. I can’t help laughing when I see thick leeks in the store –  with a puny 2 or 3 inches of white and all leaves!!!! Good leeks have long sturdy stems: that’s the part you want.  Sure the blue/green leaves are perfectly edibles: treat them like any strong-flavored greens – myself, I like to cook them with kale. But for this recipe (as with most recipes you are likely to find), the shaft, not the leaves, are what you want. That’s where the mellowness is. If you grow leeks, look for varieties which naturally grow a long stem. Also hill them up throughout summer and fall

Leeks are in season now until late winter. They are biennial, meaning they go to flower (and produce seeds) their second year. So, in early spring, the leeks planted the prior year, start to develop a woody core – they are making a flowering stem. And it is woody – fine to flavor soup, but way too hard to chew. Beware of March leeks!

The spread can be prepared several days ahead and gently reheated before putting it on freshly toasted crostini.  In winter,  I like using lard to crisp the crostini – lard rendered from the fat of a pastured pig, not hydrogenated. Feel free to use extra-virgin olive oil if you prefer.

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Winter Swiss Chard

Lard crostini, with spicy Swiss chard & fresh farm cheese

It got down to 5F (-15C) last week and the high for a few days reached low 20sF ( -4 to 66 C) —  cold by our standards, especially with no protective snow covering. especially after the mild fall and winter to date. And yet! yet, how is the Swiss chard doing in its rustic cold frame (the one made with reclaimed storm windows)? Good enough to pick from.

It was even a late planted Swiss chard (that was started in the fall, sat too long in their containers and where finally transplanted in the cold frame in late October (see how it looked back then)

Newly transplanted Swiss chard back in November

But today? today after a really cold week? A very pretty bouquet!

Pretty good looking Swiss chard for January 29, after a long week of a very cold spell

It founds it way into a split pea, sausage and Swiss chard soup – a riff off the classic Tuscan cannelloni, sausage & kale soup (although when I made it, I was not conscious of the riff… this is how one cook after all when cooking without recipes – from memory or from unconscious influences).

I don’t like raw Swiss chard (I never use its baby leaves in salad for example), but I like it a lot cooked. It’s very versatile for one:

  • quick wilted in the frying pan with lots of chopped garlic, then thrown into a soup, with pasta or served as a side vegetable;
  • blanched, refreshed and squeezed dried, they can be tossed with a bean salad, with pasta, into a tart or quiche, in a gratin or on top of crostini.

I don’t really like the ones with all the brighter colors either. They might be pretty raw, but they don’t look so appetizing cooked (the red ones bleed all over!), their texture is rougher, sometimes vaguely unpleasant. I prefer green Swiss chard, and I am always on the look-out for new cultivars to try in the garden.I also really like the ones with a very thick stems – I use them as a separate vegetable. They are perfect in a garlicky cream-based gratin with a sprinkling of hard cheese and bread crumbs.

The recipe below is ideal for a quick lunch or appetizer as you can prepare the Swiss chard (and the cheese if using homemade) well ahead and refrigerate it – bring back to room temperature before using. All that’s needed is to toast the bread, before topping it with cheese and the greens.

Lard Crostini With Fresh Farm Cheese & Spicy Swiss Chard Read more