Leeks Vinaigrette (aka Stephanie’s FAVORITE leeks recipe)
This recipe comes from the blog Orangette, and has revolutionized my relationship with leeks. Enjoy!

  • 2-3 Tbs. white wine vinegar (though in a pinch, I have found that red wine, balsamic or champagne vinegar works well too)
  • 1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small to medium shallot, minced
  • 2 lb. small leeks (7-8)

Directions: Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, until emulsified. If you are lazy like me, you can also throw all of these ingredients into a mason jar, tighten the lid and shake like crazy until emulsified.  Taste the dressing and, if needed, add more vinegar, mustard, etc until you are happy with it. Once you have achieved the perfect balance of flavors in your dressing, add the minced shallot and whisk/shake some more. Set aside. Lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter near the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it well. It should be very salty, almost like seawater. While the water comes to a boil, prep the leeks by trimming the roots (but just the roots- you want that tasty white leak portion as intact as possible.) Remove the dark leafy greens, and perhaps use them in a soup stock later. Starting about 1 inch from the root end, cut lengthwise down the middle of the leek. You are essentially making a “Y” shape out of it. Run well under water, to remove any last bits of dirt/grit. Boil until very very tender (5-10 min), than pluck from the pot of water, drain it as well as you can, and place on the kitchen towel. Continue until all the leeks are done. Blot and press with the towel to dry, watching out for hot water. While they’re still hot, put them in a large bowl and toss with a generous portion of the dressing. Serve over rice (the extra dressing makes a yummy sauce) as a delicious entree or just on their own for a tasty side. Other ideas for serving suggested by Orangette are chopped egg and/or bacon. Serves 6.

Star Recommends: Domaine La Celestiere Cotes du Rhone
A beautiful Rhone wine from this Chateaunuef de Pape producer. More depth, flavor and dimension than most Rhones that are even more expensive making this a grand bargain. Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, and Cinsault make up the final blend.

Mixed Greens Spanikopita
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Healthy Recipes
A great new twist on a traditional Greek dish!

  • 8 c. coarser greens (kale, collards, mustard, etc)
  • 8 c. softer greens (beet greens, chard, spinach, etc)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 c. feta
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 package filo dough
  • 1 Tbs. oregano
  • 1 Tbs. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Directions: Prep your greens. Begin by thoroughly rinsing them. De-stem your coarse greens and chop all greens into ribbons. Steam your coarser greens until soft. (This will usually take 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat to a colander. Squeeze as much liquid from the greens as possible, and then place them in a large bowl. Steam your soft greens. (This will usually take 3-6 minutes.) Repeat step #3. Combine oregano, salt, pepper, feta and cream cheese with your greens. Stir until well combined. Finely chop the garlic. Warm olive oil over medium heat and, when warm, add garlic. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until the garlic is golden, but not brown. Strain garlic out of olive oil and stir into the greens mixture until well combined. Set garlic infused olive oil to one side. Take two sheets of filo dough. Brush the shorter edge with the garlic olive oil and fold in half, lengthwise (like a hot dog bun). Place a generous amount of greens mixture in the lower portion of the dough, on the left-hand side. Fold the right hand corner over to form a triangle that covers the mixture. Continue to fold the filo dough into triangles (fold like a flag), brushing the final triangle with olive oil to secure it to the little dough package. Flip the spanikopita triangle over and place it, edge side down, on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush the top with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat with the rest of the filo dough until finished. Place in Oven heated to 375 degrees F and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of each pastry are golden brown. Eat and enjoy!

Star Recommends: Domaine Miral Old Vine Columbard
Bright citrus and spice notes on the nose. On the palate, flavors of sweet pink grapefruit and tangerine blend together with supple melon undertones. Yum.

Simple Sautéed Kale
A perfect, easy side dish.

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil

Directions: Chop garlic into fine pieces. Tear kale off of stalks and into bite sized chunks. Warm a generous amount of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until just golden. Add kale, stirring to coat pieces with olive oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes. When kale is bright green and al dente, remove from heat and serve. Good hot or cold!

Star Recommends: La Maialina Chianti
This is a very serious wine for the price. The floral aromatics give an impression of accessibility but the darkness and richness of the fruit offer us a hint of greater pedigree. Dark red berries, flowers and minerals make for a very impressive chianti.

Sweet Potato, Leek and Ricotta Soufflé

  • 2 lg. sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and pureed until very smooth
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 4 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 1 c. ricotta, drained
  • 4 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch ceramic or glass pie plate with butter. Set aside. Melt 2 Tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat and add leeks. Sauté until tender and fragrant then set aside. Beat the egg whites until stiff (stiff = stiff peaks form and hold their shape). Set aside. In medium sized bowl, mix the sweet potato puree, butter, ricotta, egg yolks, and as much salt and pepper as pleases you. Stir in the cooked leeks, mixing well. Fold in the egg whites, very gently. Spoon into a prepared pie dish and bake for 1 hour, until puffed and golden. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from www.epicurious.com
This sauce, without the persimmons, can be made up to 4 days ahead and chilled, with cover. Fold in the persimmons before serving and viola, an instant and delicious side.

  • 3/4 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries (3.5 cups)
  • 1/4 c. dry red wine
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 star anise or 1/4 tsp. star-anise pieces
  • 1/2-2/3 c. sugar
  • 3 ripe-firm persimmons (~1 lb.) peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice.

Directions: Combine the cranberries, wine, water, star anise and 1/2 c. sugar in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then add more sugar to taste. Pluck the star anise from the sauce and discard. Fold in the diced persimmons. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled. Stir before serving. Enjoy!

Star Recommends: Cloudline Pinot Gris
A rush of citrus fruits and white flowers, both in the nose and on the palate, combine to make this a wine of pure pleasure. With excellent texture and a strong lift from the acidity, it suggests food pairings with every sip.

Chocolate Hedgehog
From Jules at StoneSoup.com
A hedgehog is a chocolate-based, no-bake ‘cake’ or slice that usually uses plain sweet biscuits (cookies) such as shortbread. It also often has nuts as well. I’ve gone for a minimalist chocolate extravaganza but feel free to add nuts if you like.
If you prefer milk chocolate or even white, feel free to use them instead of the dark. And you can play around with the type of biscuit or cookie as well.

  • 3 1/2 oz. butter
  • 3 1/2 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1 7-oz. package chocolate-coated biscuit or cookie or shortbread

Directions: Line a 9 1/2 x 5 inch loaf tin with baking paper or foil. Place butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat until butter is only just melted. If it starts to sizzle it will be too hot and your chocolate might split. If this happens let it cool down a bit before proceeding. Meanwhile break chocolate into small pieces. Cut biscuits or cookies into chunks about the size of a dice—the more rough and rustic the better.
Add chocolate to the butter and stir until it melts. If you’re struggling to get it to melt, pop it back on the stove on a very low heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring in between. Stir through cookie chunks until well coated in chocolate and scrape the mixture into your prepared tin. Smooth the top and refrigerate until set—about 30 minutes or so. Chop into small chunks to serve. Serves 10–12

Star Recommends: Fonseca Terra Bella Porto (Organic)
This is a knock-out, a heady, intense seductive port—colored dark purple tending unto black—that fills the mouth and soothes the soul. Grapey aromas of ripe black currants, blackberries and plums are permeated by dried herbs, fennel and anise, cocoa powder, dust and minerals.

Persimmon Bread
Adapted from Nancy Scott on allrecipes.com

  • 1 c. persimmon pulp
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. veggie oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour your loaf tins (3 6x3 inch pans are recommended, but you can also make a large loaf if you prefer—just prepare yourself to have additional cooking time at the end). Combine the persimmon pulp and baking soda in a small bowl. Let stand for 7 minutes. This will allow the pulp to thicken. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Blend until smooth, and then mix in the pulp mixture alternately with flour. Combine well, but don’t over mix. Fold in the nuts. Pour patter into prepared pans, leaving the top 1/3 empty.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing bread and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy! Yield: three 6x3 inch loaves (perfect for gifting!)

Star Recommends: Chaucer’s Mead
This wine is produced utilizing fresh honey without the addition of artificial flavorings, concentrates or artificial colorings. Even though greater production difficulties ensue because pure, raw honey is used for fermentation, the intensity of flavor generated through this technique is worth the effort.