Anyone who has stood over my shoulder in the kitchen can attest that I struggle to follow a recipe. Instinct and creativity derail even my most earnest efforts. In fact, most of the time when I cook, I'm just winging it, grabbing the ingredients that look the best and throwing them together in the way that seems the most fitting or interesting. With all this imaginative initiative, you'd think it'd be easy for me to write a recipe...and you'd be wrong. Making things up on the fly is one thing, but writing down what I did so that someone else can test it out is another beast entirely.
Needless to say, it takes a gentle push to get me to write a proper recipe, and this week, that motivation was Food52's "your best leek recipe" contest. The first time I ate leeks was in Paris, and I instantly fell in love with this elegant green legume. The first few times I cooked with leeks, I used the whole vegetable (and it tasted fine to me!), but as time went on I learned to search for the long, slender white stems that make for the best leeks (and started discarding the rougher dark green tops).
My favorite way to eat leeks is still in a savory tart. I tenderize mounds of the chopped veg in a little butter, and pile so many leeks atop the crust that there's barely room to add the egg and dairy binding agents. But for this occasion, I wanted to think outside the box. So my humble offering is a spin on another of my favorite foods: noodle kugel. This mildly sweet noodle dish plays on the flavors and textures of your typical kugel, but adds a savory element that renders it suitable at almost any meal. If you test it out, be sure to tell me your thoughts! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sweet and Savory Leek Kugel
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 cups chopped leeks
- 1 bunch swiss chard, chopped (stems and leaves separated)
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- zest of 2 lemons
- 8 oz egg noodles (for gluten-free, follow my lead and use spiral quinoa pasta)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups high-quality, whole milk ricotta
- splash of milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Soak golden raisins in a glass of boiling water. Add cinnamon and stir. Set aside.
- Sautée leeks in 2 tbsp of butter. When just soft, set aside.
- In the same pan, sautée chard stems until tender. Set aside.
- Drain out most of the water from the cup of raisins. Add remaining raisins and liquid to pan, along with lemon zest and chard leaves. Sautée quickly (don't let it get overly wilted) and set aside.
- Boil pasta until al dente. Strain into a colander, rinsing with cold water to prevent over-cooking.
- Whisk together eggs, ricotta, a splash of milk and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper.
- Mix all ingredients together, and place in a medium-sized, greased glass baking dish.
- Bake for 35 minutes, broil for final 2-3 minutes if you prefer a crunchier "crust".