Tuesday, 16 February 2010

PRASORIZO (Leeks with Rice)

The noble leek, a cousin to the lowbrow onion and to the even more common garlic, is native to the Middle East. Its cultivation and consumption spread to Europe courtesy of the Romans. It must have been the Romans who introduced the leek to the Welsh, and the rest was history. The leek became the national emblem of Wales. Could there ever be a greater honour for a vegetable? Consider that Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, was an inveterate eater of leeks! Do not laugh dear reader. Instead, eat some leeks. For as Shakespeare wrote in Henry V, "if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek...it is good for your green wound and your ploody coxcomb."*

Pitifully, the Greeks, of which I am one, have not honoured the leek to the extent that the Welsh have. However, Greeks have found delightful ways with which to cook leeks. Leeks are plentiful in winter. They are tolerant of cold weather and can be harvested even when temperatures drop to 0° C. So the winter months find us Greeks using leeks in lots of recipes. One of the simplest to make is prasorizo, which means leeks and rice. Believe me, it's delicious!

  • 3 lbs leeks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Clean and prepare the leeks for cooking: cut off the root end and discard the rough green leaves. Save the white and light green part of the leek. Cut it in half lengthwise and rinse each half several times under cold running water. This method ensures that the soil and sand that has remained between the leaves are washed off. Drain and cut the leeks into one-inch pieces.

In a heavy pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and garlic. Cook about five minutes, stirring, until the onions are translucent.

Add the leeks and stir well, saute for about two minutes, add the broth, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 35 minutes. The leeks should be covered with liquid during cooking. If necessary add more broth, or add water if you prefer. After about 35 minutes, stir in the rice, parsley, dill, and lemon juice.

Cook for about 30 minutes more, until the rice is done and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve while still hot, and offer lemon wedges for those who wish to use more lemon juice. Better yet, you can garnish each plate of prasorizo with lemon slices.

*Note: "good for your... ploody coxcomb," meaning: ploody = mispronunciation of bloody, and coxcomb = a type of hat: therefore, "good for your... bloody hat," referring to the Welsh custom of pinning a leek on hats to celebrate St. David's Day.