Transforming vegetables into majestic vessels for holding flavorful fillings is nothing new. Any vegetable that keeps its shape while cooking is a good candidate for stuffing.
The leek is a winter vegetable, inexpensive, sturdy and resistant. It will keep for several months, thus its association with ‘rustic’ food.
It has been said that the leek has a dual personality. Although, an unsung hero of the onion family, it has long been prized for its aromatic properties and considered an essential addition to stocks, soups and stews.
Stuffed vegetables appear as first courses, as main course accompaniments and as the main course itself.
In this recipe, the outer layers of the leeks form the ‘pasta’ here, whereas in the classic ‘cannelloni’ dish, pasta tubes are stuffed with various fillings and baked in a bechamel sauce. This recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish meal which leek tubes are filled with a beef mixture and baked in a cream sauce.
Leek 'Cannelloni' w/ Ground Beef & Cheese in Herb Sauce
Peel, wash & remove root end & unwanted green parts of leek. Cut crosswise into 10 cm - 4-inch long pieces. Simmer in salted water for about 5 minutes or until tender but NOT real soft. Remove from pan, reserving liquid; drain. Push center parts of leek out with fingers, making leek shells open on both ends. Set aside.
Add rice to reserved liquid from leeks & cook until just barely done, then pour it into a strainer & cool it down to room temperature. In a saucepan, fry chopped bacon; add ground beef, onions & garlic. Cook ONLY until meat is no longer pink. Remove from saucepan & drain on paper towels.
In a bowl, combine bacon, ground beef & onions, cooked rice, egg, parsley, paprika, salt, pepper & grated cheese. Spoon the mixture into the leek 'noodles'. Place the stuffed leeks standing upright in a casserole dish.
Herb Cream Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, heat butter; add chopped leeks & herbs & saute for a few minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute or until smooth & bubbly. Add milk, chicken broth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes or until sauce thickens. Season with salt & pepper. Pour over the leek noodles, sprinkle shredded cheese on top & bake for 30-40 minutes.
This meal is so nice served with mashed potatoes or bread sticks.