Leto, summer & leeks

31 Jul

I associate leeks with cold winter nights:  a few logs in the wood stove, a bottle of red wine, a platter of braised leeks, roasted carrots & potatoes, and thinly sliced roast beef or roast chicken .  It’s already dark outside and has been for a while; the cats are curled up in tight little balls on the hearth, trying to stay warm.

But today my grandmother showed me how leeks can also be the perfect summer dish: infused with bright, cool flavors of dill and lemon, served on the little table on the back deck as the hot summer sun reluctantly goes down, with glasses of chilled white wine and fresh tomatoes thickly sliced.

And I am reminded of the story that in ancient Delphi leeks were served in the hottest of months, August, during the festival of Theoxenia, when the gods were invited to the banquet table of their worshippers.  According to the ancient geographer-philosopher Polemon, whoever brought the largest leek to the festival for Leto, Apollo and Artemis’s mother, would receive a portion of food from her table.  Leto, born of two Titans, loved leeks and had longed for them while she was pregnant with her sacred twins.

Delphi, one of my favorite sites in Greece.

So, if you are expecting twins, or are just looking forward to the  last glorious month of summer,  you may wish to celebrate August with Prasoryzo (Leeks with Rice) – an easy, cool, refreshing dish fit for the Titans.

Here is what my grandmother showed me (this served the both of us and my father for dinner, with a little left over):

Prasoryzo (Summer Leeks & Rice)

Prasoryzo, right after I added the rice and water to the pan.

  • 2 leeks, sliced into 1/4 inch discs, washed thoroughly, and drained in a colander
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into small rounds
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1-1/2 cups water, approximately
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice from one lemon
  • half a bunch of fresh dill, cut up
  • salt for seasoning

Heat two tablespoons or so of olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the sliced leeks and carrots and sauté until tender.  Add rice, stir, and cook for about two minutes.  Add 1/8 cup of olive oil, water (the water should just cover the rice), sugar, and dill.  Season with salt.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer until rice is soft and water has been absorbed.  Check periodically — if you need to add more water you can do so.  About 5 minutes before the rice is done, add lemon juice and remaining olive oil.  Cook for another five minutes.  You can adjust the seasoning by adding more salt and lemon if you wish.  Let cool and serve at room temperature.

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2 Responses to “Leto, summer & leeks”

  1. Kristopher July 31, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    What beautiful imagery! I’m definitely adding this to our list of summer recipes to try.

  2. Timothy Halkoswki July 31, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Sounds (& looks) wonderful!

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