Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Fry Leeks with Garum

3 Leeks
1/3 C olive oil
3 T Garum
1 T cumin (or to taste)
Salt & Pepper

Start 3 quarts of water boiling.

Split the leeks lengthwise, and clean them in running water. Be sure to spread the layers apart and wash between them, as grit often gets trapped inside, especially in the whites. Slice them coarsely, down to about 1/2", not going too far to the tips (white and pale green, essentially). Parboil them in the water for about 30 seconds, then remove and drain. Bring the olive oil to medium high heat in a frying pan. Toss the leeks with the garum and cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Note that garum tends to be quite salty, so you should not need much salt beyond that.

Fry the seasoned leeks in the oil until they are soft and translucent, just beginning to take on a golden color.

This is a largely speculative reconstruction. The short medicinal text A Dietary Calendar (appearing in translation in Andrew Dalby's Flavours of Byzantium) gives several partial descriptions of leek preparations. For January, it recommends leeks amongst vegetables that should be served with olive oil and garum. Although no other spices are directly mentioned, several are recommended throughout the month, with cumin being prominent. In September and October (when I would be cooking), boiled leek dishes, and especially spicy leeks, were recommended, although again without any specific spices. I took together with this the advice of a similar text, Humoral and Dietary Qualities of Foods (also in Dalby), to always cook leeks more than once.

Attempting to follow these comments while producing a complete dish, I decided that multiple cooking and serving with oil could be served by parboiling and then frying. For the spicing I simply used cumin because it was grouped with those flavors that were recommended in combination with leeks.

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