I have just started reading French Women Don’t Get Fat as a means of doing a little research for my own books. Whenever you submit a book for publication, you survey the competitive landscape to see what other books align with your own idea (The same step we always take in my branding workshops, too). After looking at a number of other titles, this one sounded most in spirit like my own, though her emphasis is primarily on diet/weight issues.
Anyway, so the author, Mareille Guilaino, gained about 25 pounds when she came to America for a year to study as an exchange student in high school. After returning to her homeland, she kick started new, healthier eating habits by eating magical leek soup every 2-3 hours for 2 days (though by Day 2, you can add one meal of fish/veggies to the mix). Though I am not a fan of all-liquid diets, even as a means to flush the system, I am a devout follower of leeks.
My first exposure to this vegetable was years ago when I lived in Boston. A friend of mine, who happened to be a fabulous cook, decided to make home-made salmon chowder one evening. I vividly remember him cooking diligently in the kitchen and wafting the smells towards his nose so he could figure out which secret ingredients were missing. “Ah ah!” he exclaimed, “The chowder needs some leeks!”
I was both puzzled and jealous. As much as I love to cook, I can rarely smell a dish to determine what ingredient needs to be added. But I was perplexed because I’d never even heard of leeks. After all, for 30 years of living in the South, my only perception of spices were dried ones that are packaged in bottles. I didn’t even know what fresh garlic was until I moved to Boston. But a rare and unusual vegetable? How could I have missed out on leeks for all my life?
He was right, of course. In most Northeastern chowder and bisque recipes, you’ll find leeks in the ingredients list. Though leeks are in the onion family, they have a much milder, sweeter taste. I’ve actually gone a bit leek crazy in recent years, and from what I hear, this may be true of other Americans, who were slower to adopt this white and green layered stalk than our European and Mediterranean counterparts.
Though Guilaino’s soup recipe is comprised of two ingredients, leeks and water, Jamie Oliver had a recipe for another which I think is fabulous. He adds potatoes, chickpeas, garlic and chicken or vegetable broth to the mix, topped with olive oil and parmesan cheese. When I first made this, my husband turned up his nose at the thought of eating leek soup. After he tasted it, however, he was a believer! My one recommendation is to use home-made broth. With such a simple and short ingredient list, fresher ingredients make the dish even better.
Stealing from Jamie Oliver again, he makes a chicken dish with leeks that I also adore. You wrap the chicken in pancetta and added chopped leaks and fresh thyme. After seasoning with a little olive oil, butter and white wine, you have an easy-to-make, pleasurable-to-eat dish.
As soon as I invent my own leek dish, I will be sure to share.