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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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