I often think about the tender, meaty leeks I ate in the countryside in France that were often served as a starter or side dish. Aromatic and full of flavor, this winter garden darling is often overlooked as we peruse our regional farm stands during colder months. Leeks that have been blanched and sauteed in butter are delicious enough to eat on their own but incorporated into a creamy winter risotto, they become a princely meal on a pauper’s budget for the perfect meatless Monday meal.
3 cups water
2 1/4 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
3 cups seasonedfork garden stock
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 cups chopped, blanched leeks (slice the lighter part of the leek vertically and soak in water to remove sand before blanching-reserve dark green part for stock)
1 cup dry white wine
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
5/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 1/2 cup)
3 1/2 cups chopped Cavolo Nero kale
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Combine 3 cups water and rice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain rice in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid. Combine 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid and stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add leeks to pan; sauté 8 minutes until golden. Add rice to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes). Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cheese into remaining 3 1/2 cups risotto.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 3 minutes or until kale is slightly wilted. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, toasted pecans, and vinegar; sauté for 1 minute. Top risotto with kale mixture.
The earthy flavors of the brown rice, leeks and kale are complemented by the dark fruit and herbaceous notes in a glass of North Fork Cabernet Franc from OnaBay Vineyards in Southold, aged for 12 months in seasoned French Oak.