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Posts Tagged ‘leeks’

Three onion casserole fresh from the oven.

We decided to spend both Christmas and New Year’s weekends at home this year. We’d traveled for Thanksgiving and that was enough for us. On top of the two long weekends, I also had two personal days at work that I needed to use before the end of the year – so I ended up with two 4-day weekends in a row. For someone who loves to cook, this was pure luxury! Definitely not an opportunity to be wasted – and I tried not to, as I will try to recap in the next couple of posts.

In the spirit of taking a festive approach to this opportunity, I sat down with one of my most appropriately festive cookbooks: The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Doesn’t the name just say it all? This book does not contain heart- or waistline-friendly recipes. But how often do you have an excuse to cook really decadent party food? (As opposed to a beautiful-yet-healthy potluck dish, for example?) For those rare times when you do – this book does not disappoint.

And indeed, it was not long before I was mentally bookmarking various ideas, but I finally found the one. The one I could not imagine NOT making for a long holiday weekend. It had the simple name of Three-Onion Casserole and was billed as an ‘accompaniment.’ But don’t be fooled: this dish’s size (it filled a 9×13″ pan above the brim), cost (almost $50 worth of ingredients, most of them various kinds of cheese) and flavor (wine, garlicky boursin, herb-flecked dill Havarti, and slow-roasted leeks and onions topped off with crusty, deliciously browned Gruyere) are no side show. If you were to bring this beautiful, fragrant and filling casserole to a winter party, your brilliance and generosity would not soon be forgotten. I didn’t; I just made it for the two of us, for New Year’s weekend.

One more note about this dish: it is labor-intensive, perhaps only suited for one of those 3- or 4-day weekends when cold weather has you trapped indoors anyway. There is simply no way to make light work of slicing this many onions, nor do Havarti or Gruyere typically come pre-grated. Just hang in there and get it done; you will be richly rewarded. It may seem completely inconceivable, but Tomas and I ate this whole casserole by ourselves. Eventually. I think it took about a week… but boy, those leftovers made for the best lunches ever. Like extending the holidays right into the work week.

Three-Onion Casserole (adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, 1985)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 leeks, tough green ends cut off, well rinsed and thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated Havarti (I used Dill Havarti and enjoyed the extra boost of herbs. I was unsure of how much solid cheese to buy at the store, but found that a smallish 1/2-pound block of Havarti made more than enough)

2 packages (5 oz. each) Boursin, crumbled

1 1/2 cups Gruyere, grated (one 1/2-pound block was enough; I couldn’t tell and bought two, which cost me dearly but gives me an excuse to make fondue soon)

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13″ baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the butter. Layer a third of each of the onions in the bottom of the dish and season with salt and pepper. Top with the grated Havarti. Create another layer of onions, seasoning again with salt and pepper. Top this layer with the crumbled Boursin, distributing it as evenly as possible. Layer the last third of the onions and leeks on top and top with the grated Gruyere. Dot the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter on top and pour the white wine over all. Bake for 1 hour, covering the dish with aluminum foil after 30-45 minutes or when it is sufficiently browned to prevent the top from burning. Serve immediately (but makes fabulous leftovers).

A mound of onions and cheese (way more than I had imagined - I had to switch dishes to try to fit all the food that this recipe generated!)

The Silver Palate cookbook says that this makes 6 servings, but perhaps that was in 1985. I would argue that it could easily feed 12 people if they help themselves to fairly generous portions. This would be a great side dish for any kind of steak or filet, but I enjoyed it with brussel sprouts, good bread and sweet potatoes.

You might only want to make this once a year, but I can imagine it becoming quite an addictive tradition at that time of year…

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From the garden yesterday: 3 eggs, 1 handful micro-greens (thinnings from my broccoli and kale starts – yum). Herbs: chives, sage and tarragon are all ready to use.

Last year's green onions in the garden.

Last year's green onions in the garden.

All this hype about Victory Gardens, the White House garden, and recession gardens, as I’ve heard them called, is making me want to try out a little experiment this year: documenting all the food that I get out of my garden this year. I am not alone in doing this; many others are conducting some sort of observable food production science in their yards as well.

What I really ought to do is document the money I’ve spent on the garden as well. I’ll try to find my Home Depot receipts and my seed order total – that should actually not be too hard. I’ll report back on that. Meantime, I’m going to track what’s coming out in terms of edible produce. Hopefully, at the end of the season, this will result in a really fun way to see just how productive and economical this hobby is, or if it’s more, well, just a hobby. When it comes to eggs, I already know the answer – but I’m counting them anyway because they’re worth the effort! I haved 4 chickens right now, and this will help us decide if we want more, or if 4 is just right.

I am also using this blog as a way to keep a garden diary, since I do not have one in reality (well, I guess the internet is real, but I don’t have a physical one!). I want to know what I did when, how long it took for things to come up and mature, what was most successful, and so on.

So here’s what’s in the garden right now. I planted all of these right about at St. Patrick’s Day in March.

  • Cherry Belle radishes: came up beautifully, all seedlings have since been nibbled off by a little visitor of some kind. I will have to replant this weekend.
  • Helios radish: looking really good. Good-sized seedlings, done first thinning already.
  • Cilantro: nothing happened for weeks, now I am finally seeing several seedlings that I have to hope are the damn cilantro finally making its appearance…
  • Chives: see notes on Cilantro.
  • 3 kinds of spinach: all making progress. One (Melody, planted in a container) is almost ready to start nibbling on; it has a good set of first real leaves and the next round is in the works.
  • Mesclun mix: visible.
  • Mache: nothing at all. This is a big disappointment. I may reseed and see what happens. It does say on the seed packet that it can take 20 days to germinate, and it even says “be patient,” so maybe I should just try that…
  • Mizuna: looking really good. Too tiny to eat yet, but looks like what it is – beautiful teeny toothed leaves.
  • Lettuces: Rouge d’hiver, Speckled, Merveille de Quatre Saisons – all have made an appearance and I’m waiting VERY impatiently for them to be harvestable.
  • Peas: sugar snap, Alaska, and sweet peas – all came up finally in the last week and I’m looking forward to some pea shoots in my salads!
  • Green onions: after a long wait, these too are up, which is a thrill because I thought I was not going to get results from last year’s batch of seeds.
  • Carrots: Nantes Little Fingers and Cosmic Purple – the Cosmic came up first, also after a long and breathless wait, and now the little ones are finally making an appearance. I may have gotten lucky with a whole lot of snow at just the right time; carrots NEED to be moist in order to germinate and my luck so far with them has not been stellar, so this crop looks like it will be a good one and I’m thanking the weather gods for that.
  • Bok Choy: looking good! Waiting to thin the seedlings till they’re at least the size of micro-greens so I can eat them.
  • Swiss chard: very early seedling stage right now. Some of the ones in the first container I planted got smushed by the snow and didn’t come back. I have more seeds and will possibly do a second planting depending on how many of this first batch actually get rolling in the next couple of weeks.

Now for my indoor seed starting project:

I planted a tray of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Lacinato Kale, and Leeks. All have sprouted nicely, I just thinned them yesterday, and I’m religiously putting them outside in the cold frame during the day and bringing them in at night, so – knock on wood – they look fairly normal and not too leggy or washed-out. The thinnings made for a delicious tiny salad yesterday!

That’s all for now, but I have plenty of work to do…. thinning the bok choi, cleaning out the coop, turning the compost, watering my ‘soil-building’ project which is going on in one of my raised beds (I should post separately about that as well). Happy April!

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