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Leeks, Green Onions and Garlic Scapes

  July 15, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Leeks, Green Onions and Garlic Scapes

Summer is a time for some pretty serious salad making and some pretty serious grilling.  Most salads need a little zing, and the various members of the onion family were put on earth to do just that.  And we shouldn't be surprised that a lot of these oniony veggies can serve multiple roles.  Chef Jerry Pelligrino of The Waterfront Kitchen filled us in on some of the things we should look out for.

Leeks:  the national symbol of Wales. The leek is a mildly flavored, good sized member of the onion family.  The plant consists of the white bulb and numerous sheaf leaves, tightly bundled into a stalk of sorts.  The bulb, the pale green portions and the lower deep green portions of the leek are edible.

Leeks need to be thoroughly cleaned since the sheaf leaves tend to trap sand and dirt.  The only fool-proof system is to either cut the stem lengthwise or crosswise, or soak it in water whilst agitating it vigorously.  

The leek flavor may be mild, but it is curiously potent, and as such it becomes a valuable addition to any stock recipe.  The tougher deep green portions tenderize with long cooking.

Leeks are the basis of several classic soups:  cock-a-leekie, vichysoise, leek and potato soup and classic cream of leak soup.  Braising brings out a lot of the wonderful earthy tanginess of leeks.  20 minutes gentle cooking in chicken broth will do the trick.  Sauté chopped leeks in olive oil and butter to make a lovely side dish.  Martha Stewart has a recipe for a leek, bacon and pea risotto.

Green onions or scallions; the names are interchangeable.  A green onion is in many respects a small leek.  The same structural features apply, and the same notions of which parts are best for eating also hold true.  The green onion is even milder than a leek, and is often used raw as a component of salads.

Sliced lengthwise, the stalks of the green onion are as graceful as they are flavorful.  Used in clear soups, they are a pleasant visual treat.  Cross-cut, the stalks are useful as an ingredient or as a garnish

The white bulb, trimmed of its beard, is often finely diced in recipes.  Left intact, it finds its way into stir-fries and curries.  The bulb plus about two inches of the green stalk is the most common form of green onions, and is used intact.

The attractive, yet mild flavor of the green onion has many culinary partners, but among the most successful are mild goat cheese, mushroom, shrimp, scallops, and potatoes.

Garlic scapes are a relatively obscure and hard to find vegetable.  As the name implies, they are part of the garlic plant, being the long leafless extension of the underground bulb.  Garlic scapes are sold throughout the summer by farmers savvy enough to capitalize on them.  They are, in fact, long, skinny, green curlicues with a tapered pod at one end. 

Discard the pod section which can be tough and fibrous; the rest is tender.  A scape is to the garlic as a green onion is to an onion:  much milder and sweeter.  They are the ideal basis for a pesto.  To use in humus, bean dips or salads, they should be finely chopped.  On the grill, trim the scape and then cook it whole, with a little olive oil brushed on. 

Season simply with salt and pepper.  Flavor partners include:  summer squash, chard, spinach, cilantro, lemongrass, bacon, cream, eggs, mayonnaise, butter, goat cheese, and mustard.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.