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Posts Tagged ‘leeks’

It is June, it is raining, and it is a Saturday; Farmer’s Market shopping may not happen tomorrow, due to family arriving in town for the first time in over 3 (!) years; you are slightly hung-over due to the accessibility of free wine at last night’s Best of Gage (where, unlike last year, you did not win any awards).

Beautiful Alexis - First Place, Figure - 2009

You are grouse-y about art, painting, and drawing in general, yet you have at least three pieces to finish up before next Friday (one fully rendered charcoal drawing and two grisaille paintings); your hair is snarled and in need of a wash, your apartment needs to be cleaned before the arrival of aforementioned family, and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch reality television all day. You are, in a word, cranky. But! In lieu of sulking in bed all day! You decide to pluck up! And remedy the situation! By combining comfort foods! With! Nostalgia!

My family goes back in Pittsburgh time possibly as far as anyone can remember, as far back as when the Northern Irish blood got booted from the motherland for Emmet’s Rebellion. While my parents both grew up in the city proper (North Side and Wikinsburgh), we girlish offspring were raised about ½ an hour North of the city. Unlike the rest of the family, I flew the coop as soon as I was able; and while I actually did live in the City of Pittsburgh for a whopping 4 years, I would never ever want to live there again. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get nostalgic, and especially for the food:

Bagels with capers and cream cheese and red onion and lox. The real kind, not Noah’s bagels.
A proper falafel, hummus, and kebab in the tucked-away basement Mediterranean Grill.
Decent Northern Indian food. Any decent Northern Indian food.
A crispy boxty at Piper’s Pub.
A comforting brunch at the Quiet Storm.
And, of course, delicious delicious delicious pierogis.

If you were raised in Pittsburgh, or near Pittsburgh, or by a Pittsburghers, you’ll have been fed pierogis from the time you were ready for solids; and, if you were a picky little brat like me, you will have refused to put them anywhere near your mouth because you despised onions. That being beside the point, Pittsburghers cooked up all sorts of pierogis in the kitchen: those made from scratch, those purchased from the little grandmothers at Pierogis Plus, or straight from a box of Mrs. T’s (in the frozen section at your local Giant Iggle). Pierogis were stuffed with onion, potato, and cheese, boiled, then sauteed in butter and onion and served with a dollop of sour cream on the side. Sometimes, fanciness came into play and you’d be treated to an applesauce garnish, or a pierogi stuffed with rattlesnake meat (no kidding). Pierogis could be a meal in and of themselves, or the complement to sauerkraut and grilled kielbasa. You don’t need to be Polish to enjoy a pierogi (although it is a Polish treat), but being from Pittsburgh (a very Polish city) definitely helps.

OK, we’ve got the nostalgia down. Now you understand the reasoning behind my complete and utter need to have pierogis today. So let’s make pierogis, shall we?

There are about 1,001 pierogi recipes out there. While this may be daunting to some, it was easy for me to make my selection: I went with the woman who grew up in Pittsburgh. Viola! I did make a few changes to her recipe, just because I feel confident enough in my pierogi palate to do so: in place of onions, I used leeks (grilled per this fella’s instructions and because I love me some leeks).

Grillings of leeks.

In place of red potatoes, I used Yukon Golds (because they are creamier) and kept the skin on (because I like the skin). Everything else, I kept as-is. Pierogi-making, by the way, is a time-consuming process. Not only is there dough to be made and refrigerated, but then grilling and filling, rolling and cutting, and stuffing and folding. In my split minute decision to make pierogis, I had forgotten that I don’t own a rolling pin; so there was a bit of panic and the remedy of a wine bottle (excellent rolling pin stand-in, by the way) tossed in as well.

Cuttings.

Stuffings.

I was terrifically afraid that the pierogis were going to fall apart when I boiled them or when I sauteed them with yet more leeks, but guess what? They held together beautifully, I got my plateful of nostalgia, I was distracted enough to be not as cranky, and everyone wound up happy (and full) in the end.

Kocham pierogi!

Music for pierogi-making: Einstürzende Neubauten
Music for pierogi-eating: Hossein Alizadeh

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I’m inspired by a lot of things in life, but the inspiration that I’ll speak of today comes from my favorite lesbian wives, Krista and Jessica Thrift. Krista and Jess inspired me to start cooking at home (and vegan, at that) on a regular basis; they inspired me to make cold press toddy coffee; they inspired me to start blogging, to start shopping local, and to learn to love with all of my heart and be loved in return.

Okay, that ended up a bit more sappy than I’d intended it to.

The real reasoning behind the Krista and Jess mention comes directly from their self-imposed locavore challenge (making a dish that utilizes at least three local ingredients once a week), coupled with their nod to Martha Stewart’s colcannon. I like farmer’s markets; I like knowing where my food comes from; and, as a ½ Irish lassie (County Cork, bitchez), I like boxty, beer, and colcannon. Can I do it locally and toss in a delicious colcannon to boot? Let’s find out.

Today’s visits to the farmer’s market were two-fold: Pike Place is awful when it’s this warm (and on a weekend!). but necessary when one wants scallops. We snagged the fattest, healthiest scallops for grilling from the Pure Food Fish Market and then high-tailed it out of that miasma of plodding tourists. For the rest of our groceries, we went to the neighborhood Sunday standby and left with fistfuls of fresh green stuff and potatoes for colcannon. As for the leeks? I hate to say it, but I actually had to give money to QFC in order to have leeks. I tried, but… c’est la vie.

Asparagus, mustard greens, kale, potatoes, and scallops.

Instead of colcannon with cabbage (which I tolerate, but am not the biggest fan of), I used kale (which I will make any excuse to use); and instead of one leek, I used 1½ BIG leeks (because, like Krista, I *^%ing love me some leeks). For the other part of the meal, I decided to pay homage to my $8 cast iron grill pan. Yes, you read correctly: $8. I picked one up at the thrift store, cleaned it, re-seasoned it, and decided that it was time for some grillings of the foods. If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I adore asparagus; and even more than just adoring asparagus on its own, I especially adore it grilled. Scallops? I like scallops and I like them grilled, but I’ve never grilled a single meat in my entire life. Let’s see how it goes.

I decided to stay simple with the scallops and the asparagus: a lemon-olive oil-salt-and-cracked black pepper marinade. For the colcannon? A fancy pants purple potato that I can’t remember the name of.

Sexy Spuds

And the result? Okay, I’m patting myself on the back again. The asparagus was slightly blackened, yet tender; the colcannon was gorgeous with purple potatoes and bright green leeks and kale; and the scallops were g.d PERFECT: seared on the outside and tender on the inside.

Bougie Dinner

Verdict: “It’s fucking amazing, F. I wish I had more right now. If I had more, I’d keep eating until I died.” – Paul

Note: Paul is a food snob. As someone who lives with Paul, I know that he will not heap these sort of compliments on me even if I am demanding them from him.

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