Everyday Gourmet (3/18/10)

Leek a secret

March 18, 2010

By Kim Dannies

Recently I attended a writers’ conference at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (kripalu.org). Think holistic hotel, or yoga camp for over-grown kids, and you have the idea: Heaven for some, hell for others.

Little Miss Rib-Eye, I was somewhat anxious about getting enough protein in this wholesome environment. But after my first meal I was so dazzled by the flavors and the beauty of the food that I didn’t want my vegetarian stint to end.

While it’s never a bad thing to have others cook for you, reality hits especially hard on a Monday morning trip to the grocery store — what could I buy to recapture some of the magic of the Kripalu weekend? Because I was cooking a meatless dish, I was inspired to buy leeks (which usually I think are a bit too expensive). Leeks are the secret elite of the onion family, and because they add so much horsepower to a dish I felt the cost would justify my pursuit for perfection. I shopped for freshness, color and low-fat flavor and the resulting recipe is truly a Kripalu-worthy dish.

Pignoli and Leek Linguine

Prep: Discard the dark green top and bottom tip of 3 leeks. Slice the white and light green parts into thin disks; rinse well in a salad spinner. Toast 1 ounce of Pignoli (pine) nuts. Slice a small head of radicchio into thin ribbons, yielding 3 cups. De-stem 6 asparagus spears and cut vegetable into 1-inch pieces. Mince 2 garlic cloves. Measure out 1 cup of white wine; 1/3 cup lemon juice; 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese.

Gremolata: In a small processor combine 1 garlic clove, a large handful of clean Italian parsley leaves and the zest of a small orange. Pulse to a rough chop.

Cook 6 ounces of whole-wheat linguine in boiling water for 10 minutes. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan and sauté leeks on high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Lower heat; deglaze with a splash of wine. Add asparagus, wine, lemon juice and cooking water. Simmer for 1 minute, season with kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste. Stir in the pasta and half of the Parmesan cheese; turn off the heat and cover. Line 2 pasta bowls with 1 cup each of the radicchio. Portion out the pasta. Top with generous pinches of gremolata, Pignoli nuts, Parmesan and the remaining radicchio. Serves 2.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.