In these parts, one can usually find a ham & leek dinner, where the leeks are usually steamed whole and eaten as "greens", sometimes with butter and a splash of malt vinegar. I much prefer to clean them, separate the greens from the whites, and use the greens in cream sauces or as one would use chives. The sharp bulbs, in my opinion, are best when roasted, which allows their sweetness to shine through the strong flavor. The caramelization also gives them great depth of flavor, and are wonderful pureed and added to a simple carbonara sauce, or anywhere you'd use roasted garlic.
I suppose leeks wouldn't be as prized as they are if they were easy to gather. The next few weeks, we'll drive into the woods and look for signs of leek growth. We'll wait until the signs start going up at local churches, advertising leek dinners, and we'll hike onto our "secret" hillside, enjoy the sounds of the creek as the water meanders through the rocks, and we'll forage for our green gold.
That's our sign that winter is officially over.
Hot & Wild Leek Dip
1/2 cup wild leeks (ramps) cleaned and chopped roughly (if you cannot get wild leeks, use scallions/green onions, but use 3/4 cup)
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into cubes
3 tsp cayenne pepper sauce, we like Frank's Red Hot
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp crumbled bacon, cooked crisp
Preheat oven to 375*F. In a food processor, process the ramps until they are well-chopped. Add the cream cheese, cheddar, and cayenne until well-blended. Transfer mixture to an 8" baking pan sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkle with bacon pieces. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and heated through. Serve with crackers.