Tooling along Bloor West this weekend, I stop into P.A.T. the huge Korean supermarket at Bloor West and Clinton, to pick up some greens. I’m not expecting much selection — to many meat-obsessed Koreans, chicken is a vegetable — other than row upon row of pickled root vegetables. But there, in a cardboard box and priced at only $2.99, I spot bundles of wild leeks. Score!
Also known as ramps, wild leeks are one of the first veggies of spring. They appear about mid-May and their season lasts only a few weeks. You should be able to find them at most local farmers’ markets.
Getting them home, I realize I haven’t got a clue what to do with them. After a little research, I discover that the somewhat raunchy raw veg — think skinny green onion meets garlic — when cooked tastes like scallion. And since I’ve got a bag o’ spuds and some Gruyere on hand, scalloped potatoes it is.
RAMPED UP SCALLOPED POTATOES
I bundle wild leeks (about a pound)
5 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and sliced thin
1 low-sodium vegetarian bouillon cube dissolved in a cup of hot water
¾ cup 35% butterfat whipping cream (a small container)
1 pound of Gruyere, shredded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste
First, you have to clean the leeks, as they’re pulled straight from the earth and bagged. After I wash them thoroughly, I trim the root ends, then chop them up — leaves ‘n’ all — roughly into two inch lengths. On medium low, heat olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan and sautee the leeks for three to four minutes until they wilt.
Butter a large casserole — I use a 12” x 9” glass dish — then add half the potatoes. Layer with half the leeks and the rest of the potatoes, topping with the last of the leeks. Combine the cream, bouillon and ground pepper and nutmeg (a little goes a long way) and pour over potatoes and leeks. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, layer with shredded cheese and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until the edges are crisp and golden brown. Serves four as a main course with a side salad.