FBy early spring, leeks will be a permanent fixture in this kitchen, fatty green and white alliums tossed with potatoes for soup or simmered in chicken and barley stews. They will be pureed for pasta and fried to top a baked potato. Cooked slowly and softened without coloring, they will garnish open goat’s cheese or bacon tartlets.
This week, the first fatty leeks of the year were put into tarts, cooked until silky, their flesh seasoned with grated parmesan, then wrapped in pastry and baked in the oven. Another time I might be tempted to add chopped tarragon leaves or a little blue cheese, a dollop of mustard or a dusting of smoked paprika. On this occasion it was simply leeks and cheese, a partnership that ticked all the boxes for me.
I also made a batch of chewy hazelnut cookies, the surface of which is covered with salted peanuts. Cookies so tender you could crumble them over a bowl of applesauce or a glass of ice cream. Topped with roasted peanuts, I even sprinkled a few with extra sea salt flakes – buttery, nutty, salty little treats to pass around on a fall afternoon.
Leek and parmesan tart
You can prepare it in a large springform pan or bake it freely on a baking sheet. I take the middle route, baking the pie free-form, but using the outer ring of a 9-inch cake pan to hold the pastry in shape. The circle is not essential, but it prevents the dough from splitting during baking. The flavor of the leeks is less strong if you cook them without color, placing a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the sliced leeks and a lid, so that they are partly sautéed, partly steamed. This is a good recipe for using small, hard pieces of parmesan. For 6 to 8 people
For the pastry:
butter 180g, refrigerator cold
flour 300 grams
Egg yolk 1
egg 1, lightly beaten for brushing
water about 50ml
For the leeks:
leeks 1 kg
flour 3 rounded tablespoons
sour creamisch 100g
Parmesan cheese 80g, grated
Prepare the dough: cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate it into the flour with your thumbs and fingertips or use a food processor. When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the yolk and enough water to make a rollable dough. With your lightly floured hands, form a ball of dough and place it in the refrigerator for about half an hour.
Remove and discard the roots and darker green tips of the leeks. Slice the leeks into thick slices (1 to 2 cm), then wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove any grains that might get stuck between the layers. Put them in a colander and shake them. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based skillet. Put the leeks in the pan, cover with a disk of parchment or parchment paper, push it down to cover the surface, then cover with a lid and let them cook – halfway between sautéing and steaming – for about 25 minutes, lifting the paper and stirring once or twice, until soft, but not colored at all. Season with black pepper and a little salt.
Sprinkle with flour, stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the crème fraîche and grated parmesan, then set aside. Set the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and place an empty baking tray in the oven.
Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lightly oil a 23cm cake tin, place it on the lined baking tray, then place the dough in it, gently pushing it into the corners and leaving the excess dough in place. If you’re going the free-form route, simply drop the dough onto the lined baking sheet.
Fill the middle of the dough with the leek and cheese mixture. Now fold the edges of the excess dough over the filling, leaving the middle free of dough. Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Place this baking sheet on top of the hot baking sheet already in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until the dough is golden brown. If the leeks brown too much, place a piece of foil loosely over the surface. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. If you used a cake tin, run a spatula around the edge to unmold the tart, then cut it into thick slices and serve.
Peanut Butter Cookies
The only ingredients you need to make good peanut butter are peanuts and salt, so check the label for interlopers like palm oil and sugar. The flavor of these soft-textured little cookies is even better if you opt for the darker roasted peanut butter.
Makes about 38 to 40 small cookies
Powdered sugar 100g
soft brown sugar 100g
baking powder 1 teaspoon
Peanut Butter 200g
roasted and salted peanuts decorate
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butter into small pieces and place them in the bowl of a food processor with the sugars. Beat until soft and fluffy. In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork, just enough to mix the yolks and white, then add it little by little to the butter and sugar. (I do this in 3 or 4 steps, so the mixture doesn’t curdle. If it does, add a spoonful of flour.)
Sift the flour and baking powder together, then add them to the mixture and continue until the flour is incorporated. Add the peanut butter. Set the oven to 170°C/thermostat 3-4. Place rounded tablespoons of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving enough space around each to allow the cookies to spread. With the back of a floured dessert spoon, lightly press each one to flatten the top. Coarsely chop the roasted and salted peanuts, then sprinkle 2 g (about 1 teaspoon) over each cookie.
Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are spread and turn pale golden brown. They should remain soft to the touch. While the cookies are baking, prepare a second baking sheet and repeat until all the mixture is used (I make about 4 batches). Let the cookies firm up a bit before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack.
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