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Early Winter - Starters and Light Bites

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Season’s best leeks

Leeks are believed to be descendents of the wild onion found across Europe. They have long, cylindrical stems, with many layers of tightly wrapped leaves that are white where they have been earthed and green where exposed to light. When cooked, they have a mild flavor, but are pungent when raw. Although in season from autumn to late winter, they are at their best in early winter. They pair well with fish, cream, cheese, potatoes, lemon, and olive oil.


Baby leek

These are tender enough to eat thinly sliced in a salad. They also make a tasty topping for pizzas and savory tarts, and are good grilled or roasted whole.


Leek

Ranging in size from pencil thin to fat-shanked giants, leeks add texture and flavor to all kinds of dishes. Leeks should bend; if stiff, they will be tough and "woody" inside.

The coarse outer leaves need not be wasted. Chop them coarsely and add to the stockpot.

Cultivated in temperate zones, leeks can tolerate cold, making them a staple winter vegetable. The white part that grows underground stays tender, while the exposed green tops become coarse.


How to wash and cut leeks julienne

Leeks need thorough washing as dirt gets trapped between the layers. Cut them into julienne strips to cook or to use raw for salads or garnish. For use in purées, stews, and casseroles, simply slice or chop after washing.

Trim both ends of the leek. Cut in half lengthwise and gently spread the layers. Rinse under cold running water and shake off excess.

For julienne, cut off all the green part, then cut the white in desired lengths. Slice, cut-side down, into 1/8in (3mm) wide strips.


Essentials

Varieties available

Baby leeks to eat whole or thinly sliced, and large maincrop ones to slice or chop.


Buy

Choose those with a long run of white that "gives" slightly when bent. Avoid stiff leeks.


Store

Store unwashed and wrapped in a sealed plastic bag in the vegetable drawer for up to a week.


Cook

Boil, steam, sauté, or stir-fry slices; braise or grill whole or split. Use in soups, stews, and savory pie fillings.


Preserve

Blanch and freeze.


Recipe ideas

Fish and leek pie

Leek and potato soup

Leek vinaigrette

Potato and leek croquettes


Season’s best mussels

Common mussels live in cool waters all over the world, unlike the larger, green-lipped mussel imported from New Zealand alone. At their best in winter, they are harvested from the wild by dredging and hand-gathering, but are also farmed, rope grown. One of the most sustainable seafoods, they taste great when cooked in wine, cider, or vermouth with shallots and garlic, and also with the aniseed flavors of pastis and fennel. Try, too, with chorizo, chile, and saffron.


Common mussels

Also known as the blue mussel, their shell varies from brown to a bluish-purple. The mussels attach themselves to rocks, or when farmed, to rope, by a strong thread called the byssus thread (or beard), a protein they secrete. They taste slightly salty, with an intense flavor of the sea.

Rope-grown mussels have little barnacle growth on the shell and are glossy. They require minimal preparation.

Marine blue mussels grow in abundance in temperate and polar waters worldwide. Freshwater ones live in cool, clean lakes and rivers.


How to prepare mussels

Mussels must be scrubbed and debearded before use. Before doing this, if there is time, place the mussels in a large bowl of cold water, sprinkle with oats, and leave for 2 hours to help them self-clean inside.

In the sink, scrub the mussels under cold, running water. Rinse away grit or sand and remove any barnacles witha small, sharp knife. Discard any mussels that are open.

To remove the “beard,” pinch the dark stringy piece between your fingers, pull it away from the mussel, and discard.


Essentials

Varieties available

The native variety is the blue mussel. Large green-lipped mussels are imported. Also available frozen, canned in brine or vinegar, smoked; often included in frozen seafood mix.


Buy

Shells should not be damaged and should shut or close quickly when tapped sharply. They should smell pleasantly of the sea.


Store

Eat on day of purchase.


Cook

Steam, usually in a pan with some stock, wine, or water with other flavorings. Cream may be added. Eat with the cooking liquid or add to rice, pasta, or fish sauces.


Recipe ideas

Cod and mussel chowder

Mussels in a coconut and lemongrass broth

Pasta and mussel salad

Risotto with mussels

Steamed mussels with saffron-cream sauce

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