Leek Appetizer

From The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook: Garden-Fresh Recipes Rediscovered and Adapted for Today’s Kitchens, by Fania Lewando (Schocken); photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  20 minutes Cook Time:  50 minutes

Leek Appetizer

Editor’s Note: This recipe comes from a Yiddish-language cookbook that was originally published in 1938 in the city then called Vilna, in Lithuania. The author perished in the Holocaust, but her book was recently rediscovered, translate and updated for modern audiences, and published by Schocken. We are reproducing the recipe as it appears in the book, in the format used at the time of its publication, complete with notes from the current edition’s editor, Eve Jochnowitz, as well as from our own Test Kitchen.

Ingredients

Editor’s Note: Like most cookbooks published before World War II, this one incorporated ingredients into the instructions. See below.

Instructions

Cut 3 large leeks and 2 Spanish onions into small pieces, saute in butter. Add 3 diced hard-boiled eggs, 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons bread crumbs, 3 diced scallions and [chopped fresh] dill. Add 2 raw eggs and some salt and mix well. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pot, and add the leek mixture. Cover well, and bake ½ hour. Serve sprinkled with dill.

For best results, sauté the leeks and onions slowly over a low flame. It will take about 20 minutes. None of the recipes in this collection specifies an oven temperature, for the simple reason that temperatures in the wood or coal ovens of that era could not be easily adjusted. A moderate oven of about 350°F works for most of the recipes. …Ed.

Kitchen Tips

Here’s how we prepared this recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick vegetable oil spray or rub with 2 tablespoon softened butter and set aside.
  2. Toast 2 larges slice rye, sourdough or whole-wheat bread until crisp. Let cool, break in half or quarters and then process in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Set aside. You should have ⅓ to ½ cup.
  3. Prepare the leeks: Remove the tough green outer leaves and root ends of the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise and then in half-circles. Fill a bowl with water, place the leeks into it and wash well, separating the interior layers with your fingertips. Leeks absorb huge amounts of dirt and sand as they grow, so keep washing until they are perfectly clean; the dirt should fall to the bottom of the bowl while the leeks float to the surface. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and set aside. (Don’t drain by pouring the water out of the bowl over them or you will be pouring the dirt back onto them.) Rinse the bowl thoroughly, fill with water, return the leeks to the bowl, and soak until you are ready to use them.
  4. Prepare the onions: Peel and cut the onions into ½-inch chunks. Set aside.
  5. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy, saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat (make sure it has passed the foamy stage and is melted completely). Drain the leeks well and add them and the onions to the pot. Stir to coat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and stir to incorporate.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the leeks and onions are softened, browned, and cooked through, reducing the heat as needed to prevent burning. Remove from the heat.
  7. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool. Add the 3 diced hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons softened or melted and cooled butter, the toasted breadcrumbs, 3 diced scallions (white and green parts) and 1 small bunch dill, minced. (Reserve a little of the dill for garnish.) Stir well.
  8. Taste the mixture and add more salt and pepper if desired. Add 3 raw eggs and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on top. Sprinkle with more chopped fresh dill.

This will be great with pita chips or everything pretzel crisps; mixed with cream cheese, it’s terrific on an onion bagel! It’s delicious as is, but it’s also very good with a pinch of Eastern European brinza cheese.

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