You might not know what an allium is, but you’ve already enjoyed eating one. Or three or four. The allium family includes two of the world’s most popular ingredients: garlic and onions. Plenty of other beloved veggies are members of the allium family: leeks, green onions (often called scallions), chives, shallots, and ramps (i.e., wild leeks). And of course just saying “garlic” and “onion” doesn’t really do those alliums justice, because eaters enjoy everything from sharply piquant wild garlic with its tiny cloves to mellow, oversized elephant garlic with its giant cloves … and likewise, everything from pungent red onions to sweet Vidalias.
In the spirit of welcoming an early spring with an early round of alliums – they’re one of the first veggies to come up as soon as the weather gentles – I made a triple-allium pasta dish with three of my favorites: leeks, onions, and garlic. In my case, I deepened the flavor by sautéeing them in schmaltz (the drippings off a recent roast chicken that I had collected and kept in a glass jar in the fridge), but a rich-tasting pastured butter like Kerrygold would work, too. Or rendered bacon fat should you have any on hand. I often do since I always save the drippings from bacon whenever I make it. Pastured bacon is much, much more lean than conventional bacon – not to mention FAR more delicious! – but a few strips will still provide a spoonful or two of rendered fat to keep on hand to enrich just about any dish you can think of.
Makes enough for 2 good-sized servings. Feel free to double or triple as needed.
Schmaltz, rendered bacon fat, OR pastured butter or ghee such as Kerrygold or Purity Farms
4 leeks, cleaned* and chopped
2 medium yellow or white onions, chopped (if you want a really sweet dish, choose a large sweet onion)
8 to 10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 servings whole-grain pasta of your choice (be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you want a gluten-free dish)
Place a dollop of schmaltz in a large nonstick skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, reduce heat by a notch or two, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, adding more schmaltz if the pan starts to get too dry and the veggies start to stick to it.
While the alliums are sautéeing, prepare the pasta according to package directions. I usually simmer my pasta for 8 minutes, so I like to start the pasta during the second phase of the allium cooking so that everything is done at the same time. If your pasta takes more than 10 minutes to cook, you might want to start off the recipe by cooking the pasta.
Drain pasta well and toss with the sautéed alliums. Feel free to serve this dish with a full-flavored aged cheese like Parmesan or even a blue like Stilton. Perhaps you might want to go the sweet route and pair your alliums with bell peppers or tomatoes. Maybe you’d even like to do both. Alliums are so versatile – especially when cooked – that you really can’t go wrong with them.
* To clean a leek, peel off and discard the outermost layer. Cut off the tough dark green lower portion of the leek and discard. Hold up the leek by the root end and use a large sharp knife to poke through the leek about an inch away from the root end. Pull the knife straight down, cutting the leek in half but keeping it connected at the root end. Turn 90 degrees and repeat. You should have a quartered (but still held together) leek. Fan out under running cool water and hand-scrub the layers gently to wash away any dirt that might be trapped between the layers. Shake dry and chop, discarding the root end.
Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.