I just finished reading two books by Marlena de Blasi that are set in Italy and both have recipes in the back. I don’t always try the recipes in books written by chefs, but de Blasi’s recipe for Leeks Gratin looked easy and fabulous for a cold winter’s evening. A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance and A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure tell the story of de Blasi’s love story with Italy and with an Italian. In Venice, she meets “the stranger,” as she calls him, falls in love with him, and becomes part of his life in Venice. At the end of the first book, they decide to move to Tuscany to restart their life path together, and A Thousand Days in Tuscany is an intimate look at life in a tiny Tuscan town. The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story is on order from Amazon and will complete the trilogy of de Blasi’s tale for me, and then I’ll send the three books on to Virginia to some traveling friends who love Italy. Just payin’ it forward.
The first stop in this journey to Italy was to figure out what I was going to cook this in. I’ve been craving this pot from Le Creuset, but haven’t found it at a price that I’m willing to pay. It’s really hard to justify when I have multiple baking pans that of course I could use, but it’s just so perfect. It goes from stove top to oven and instead of messing up two pans, I only have to wash one. Yeah, that’s the justification for spending this much money on a pot. In the end, I used my trusty Pyrex rectangle, as we do.
The next stop was to go grocery shopping for the ingredients. I am lucky to have a wonderful grocery just a few blocks away and I knew that they carried organic leeks. I don’t always eat organic fruits and vegetable, but considering that leeks are difficult to clean, I decided to go with the organics, just in case.
Ingredients — with a few slight alterations to lighten up de Blasi’s original recipe
- Four large leeks, green parts trimmed off, white parts split, thoroughly rinsed, and sliced thinly into rounds
- Four large onions, trimmed, washed, and sliced into rounds (try a mixture — I used one yellow onion and two Vidalias)
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 1 cup fat-free small curd cottage cheese
- 1 tsp just-grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp just-cracked pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup grappa or vodka
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Place the prepped leeks and onions into a large pot with a little water and sweat them just until tender — do not carmelize or brown.
- Place tender leeks and onions into a large mixing bowl.
- In a smaller bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the Parmesan the butter, and mix well. (I used my immersion blender to smooth out the cottage cheese with the rest of the ingredients.)
- Scrape the mascarpone mixture into the bowl with the leeks and, using two forks, evenly coat the leeks and onions with the mixture.
- Spoon the leeks and onions into a buttered oval oven dish 12 to 14 inches long, spreading the mixture evenly.
- Scatter the Parmesan over all, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until a deep golden crust forms.
Yield: 6 servings at approximately 351 calories
I’m linking up with On the Menu Monday at StoneGable today. Please stop by to visit for some cooking inspiration!
If you liked what you saw here, you will probably also like what I read — a lot of books that include food, restaurants, chefs, and travel as their main components. You can see my reviews on Goodreads — my profile name is GotMyReservations. 🙂
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