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On Your Mark, Get Set: Tomatoes and Leeks

2010 September 7

by Brianna Bain

As an avowed lover of leeks I was pleased by their presence last week in Sarah’s Risotto with Gold Coins. I jump at the opportunity to incorporate these mild, sweet cousins of garlic and onion into this week’s recipe. They are a great option for added flavor in any dish where  an onion is called for and can even can hold their own as a meal headliner. While leeks will be my chosen relay item, I will not be able to avoid the use of tomatoes. It is officially tomato season and the volume of tomatoes I received in this week’s  CSA box just goes to prove it!  There are limitless possibilities in using tomatoes and leeks, two very versatile, yummy ingredients. I have no shortage of ideas or direction but one dish has been tugging at me to be recreated.

August brought my Mother’s birthday celebration and a lovely group of ladies with their best culinary treasures in tow. This year our dear friend Annemarie shared her version of  Moussaka- a traditional Mediterranean dish made by layering eggplant with a spiced lamb filling topping it off with a  creamy bechamel sauce of butter, egg, milk, cheese and a little flour.

Annmarie’s Moussaka was a variation of a friend’s  family recipe, transformed by some very specific dietary restrictions of no wheat, no red meat and no dairy. A far cry from it’s original recipe. Still she developed a very satisfying meal, defying the challenges of recreating a dish that calls for  the  distinct richness of lamb and the creaminess of ricotta cheese.  It was so good, I could not help myself from having seconds!  What made the variation of this dish work was Annmarie’s use of the original recipe’s spices of  Nutmeg and Cinnamon. These wonderful spices can give you the illusion of sweetness and a full body with out the sugar or the fat. Magical in my opinion. These spices engage an entirely different set of taste buds, bringing hidden savory flavors to life!  Annemarie’s Moussaka had a  wonderfully complex flavor difficult to describe;  powerfully reeling me in for just one more joyful bite in hope to grasp a clear description.

For my recipe this week I have been inspired two-fold: by Sarah’s beautiful Risotto with Gold Coins and by Annemarie’s delightful Moussaka birthday dish. I will try my best to bring an exciting tomato leek creation to life, packing the magical wonder of nutmeg and cinnamon while embracing the added challenges of offering it up as a gluten and dairy free dish.

See you Thursday for my complete recipe!

-Brianna