Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eeek! A Leek! A Relative of the Onion, Leeks Have a Taste That Doesn't Linger; Learning to Love an Allium

I'm not a big fan of onions though I do use them sparingly...sometimes. And because of my dislike I've always shied away from it's cousin, the leek. But I recently I came across a recipe for Leek Tart that looked absolutely delicious.

I saved it for a weekend when the family was gathered (better to have a crowd to eat it in case I didn't love it) and the best part was that the rest of the clan loves leeks.

But first some words from the leek family tree: the edible portions of the leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The darker green portion is rarely used. The leek, a member of the Allium family,  has a mild onion-like taste, kind of a mixture of mild onion and cucumber, with a fresh smell similar to scallion.

Leeks contain important amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has often been shown to help protect blood vessel linings from damage, Overlooked is their important concentration of the B vitamin folate. Because of the connection to the onion, leeks share many of the same health benefits as it's more pungent relative. Leeks should be eaten in 1/2 cup amounts daily to get the most health benefits.

One of my sisters snapped a photo of herbs purchased at a farm 
stand on Long Islands east end. Placed in water, they stayed fresh
the whole weekend. 
Below is the recipe we made on the recent holiday weekend. In addition to the leeks. lots of herbs were used adding more health benefits to the tart. The crust, pate brisee, makes enough for two tarts. If you're not up to making the pate brisee, a shortcut would be using a prepared pie crust that you might find in the supermarket. I didn't have my tart pan with me so the one pictured above is a little free form. It didn't make a difference to the leek fan club...both tarts were completely gone and I had two pieces. I could definitely learn to love a leek!

Herb-Leek Tart
Serves 6

Pate Brisee (see recipe below)
All-purpose flour, for surface
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed well
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs (such as tarragon, basil, chives, parsley, or chervil)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pate brisee into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 4 1/2-by-13 3/4-inch rectangular tart pan (available at, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Fold under overhanging edges, pressing firmly against pan, to double thickness of crust sides. Prick bottom with a fork. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Line dough with parchment cut to fit, and top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake until bottom is golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 
  • Meanwhile, saute leeks in butter over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until leeks are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer leeks to a bowl, and let cool slightly. 
  • Add eggs and yolk, cream, creme fraiche, cheese, herbs, and salt to leeks, and stir to combine. Season with pepper. Spoon filling into cooled tart shell. Bake until filling is set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cut into squares.
Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

  • Pulse flour and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream until dough just comes together (no longer than 30 seconds).

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