Savory Leek Spread with Thyme and Oregano
“I just can’t make another leek soup.”
Since being gone for a weekend trip had us missing the Monday vegetable pickup, my friend Prunelle was kind enough to grab our CSA vegetables for us. I met up with her the following evening to grab the bag. We stood on the street corner, the warm spring air and the newly gained extra hour of daylight an invitation to stay and talk awhile. And as most conversations do, ours went to food.
The green tips of the leeks peaked out of the bag. “Oh leeks, fun!” I exclaimed.
“No but Anna, seriously, I can’t make another leek soup,” Prunelle sighed, both of us looking at each other with that understanding “I know it’s ridiculous to complain about having too many vegetables, but still…” gaze.
Some recipes are born out of a spontaneous strike of inspiration. Most of mine are born out of necessity, always related to the weekly question of: what do I do with the [insert name of seasonal CSA vegetable here]?
It’s not because you don’t know how to eat those vegetables. There are the base recipes you will always turn to – grated carrots (which you can use in cookies) or roasted potatoes for example – but sometimes you get flat out bored. And Prunelle was having her moment against leek soup. I was very understanding. When you’re bored, you’re bored.
“Why don’t you sauté them and put them in the freezer to use later?” I asked.
“We don’t have a freezer, remember?” responded Prunelle.
Ah yes, the problem of the Parisian kitchen: space.
Tell an American that you don’t have a freezer and they’ll probably wonder if there’s something wrong with you or that you’re making some weird environmental statement about energy use. Tell a Parisian that you don’t have a freezer and they’ll simply nod. Small refrigerators usually just mean enough room for a small ice box that lets you store a tiny amount of ice cream and a tray of ice cubes.
The small refrigerator (and in turn freezer space – or lack there of as the case may be) encourages you to shop in small quantities and regular, which in turn forces you to eat fresh. That’s a good thing. But you can’t pop a dish in the freezer for later, which sometimes is a nice option for storing vegetables.
We proceeded to go through an assortment of leek ideas, our two minute vegetable pick up conversation turning into a 15 minute one. As the week went on I kept thinking about those leeks. My mother often makes an onion jam that’s as good spread on bread with goat cheese as it is thrown in a salad. I would use the leeks and make something similar. Perfect.
So I started with the recipe for The Last Ingredient’s Red Onion Jam recipe as a base and then went rogue.
While a higher sugar content would help make this more of a jam, and help preserve it longer, I think the leeks are sweet enough by themselves, so I got rid of most of the sweetener. Instead there’s just a little brown sugar, and this is more like a confit than a jam. The thyme and oregano? Because the thyme grows on the balcony, and I had found fresh oregano at the Saturday market.
What do you do with this spread? Put it in a sandwich, spread it on pizza dough as a base instead of sauce, serve it with fresh bread and a little roquefort. Whatever your heart desires. And if you happen to have a small refrigerator, you will be happy to know that those four to five leeks now only take up the size of a jam jar.
Leek Spread with Thyme and Oregano
Makes: Happens to fit perfectly in an upcycled 13 ounce (370 grams) Bon Maman jam jar. Use whatever you have on hand.
4 to 5 medium sized leeks, chopped (about 12 ounces/340 grams – approx. 4 cups when chopped)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) white wine
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few sprigs of oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of pepper
In a saucepan, sauté the leeks with the olive oil for about 15 to 20 minutes – until the leeks have softened and started to reduce in size.
Add the rest of the ingredients, then cover and reduce to low heat. Let cook for about 45 minutes, occasionally peeking in and stirring just to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom.
Remove the sprigs of oregano and thyme, then in a food processor, or using an immersion blender, blend the leeks until you get your desired consistency. I like it when there are still some leek chunks left. In fact, you don’t have to go through this stage if you don’t want to – it just depends on if you want a smoother spread or not.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight glass jar.
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