We use wild leeks (also known as ramps) for many things around our house – the most common uses are pickling the bulbs (they’re great with old cheddar), pesto’ing the leaves (we freeze them in muffin tins) and drying the roots (they are awesome atop a salad or raw/ delicate fish). We have other plans for the leaves this year but we’ll report on that once we experiment further.
I thought it might be good to remind myself that you don’t have to preserve everything (this was a tough lesson in 2009 when I realized I didn’t eat a single fresh pea and had canned every pea I had that year). Here’s a quick way to turn a single meal into two separate dishes using Wild Leeks (a simple fish dinner followed by a different take on potato salad).
Start by giving your leeks a good wash. They often have an awkward enzyme (it looks like a fusion of dirt and the slimy layer of an onion that lies under the skin and on top of the flesh). It’s easy to pull off.
Break the leek into its components (I placed the roots in a smaller bowl and placed them on a shelf in the warmest part of my kitchen to dry – once complete I will remove the roots from the tip of the bulb and add it to the compost):
We’ll start with creating a simple fish sauce – these instructions were based on some advice from Hooked for our recent Pickerel dinner.
Chop the bulbs and some of the green. Many people find that leeks leave a bitter ‘coating’ in their mouth long after a meal. It is my experience that most of the greens cause – you don’t need to use them all. I also like keeping some of the greens uncooked to use as a fresh herb in dishes (such as our potato salad).
Ramps (just another name for ‘wild leeks’) are the adopted child of onions and garlic (or so I claim). They adore butter (and so do I).
- Gently melt some butter (clarified works very well for this) in a pan (by some, let’s just assume that means a lot).
- Add the chopped bulbs and soften.
- Add some white wine. Don’t be shy. About 2 parts wine to 1 part butter.
- Simmer gently to reduce the mixture.
- Add the chopped greens at the last-minute and top your fish
We served this with boiled potato, fried pickerel and quick-pickled onions:
We had leftovers at the end of the meal (the 4 potatoes below were only part of our remaining spuds). We chopped the leftover potatoes, pickled onion and the remaining uncooked wild leeks (we had extra wine-butter sauce that isn’t in the picture):
Toss everything in a bowl. We added oregano, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, mustard seeds, the leftover butter sauce and added sesame seeds for even more crunch. With all of this butter, no mayo needed (if your is too dry, consider adding some olive oil to the mixture which will add a subtle flavor without hijacking the taste of everything in the bowl):
Many home cooks don’t use enough spices. I’ve learned (i.e. been slapped around by many chef friends) to lower the number of spices I put in a dish while dramatically increasing the amount of each I put in. Ass spices tot he point that you are uncomfortable (with the only exception being the hot stuff which you can add until you are comfortable):
Two quick dishes made from the same meal.
What do you use leeks for?
Please note: always ensure you are foraging or purchasing leeks which are sustainably harvested. Leeks were so over-harvested in Quebec that the leek has almost disappeared and Legislation makes it either forbidden to pick them or the quantity you can harvest is incredible minimal). For guidelines on harvesting or purchasing wild leeks sustainably, our article on pickling and pesto describes more).