Romanian “Mancare de Praz”… or Roasted Leeks in Tomato Sauce with Olives.

Romanian “Mancare de Praz”… or Roasted Leeks in Tomato Sauce with Olives. When I was growing up, my mom would make “mancare de praz” for us. It’s interesting, but my mom always tried to serve us meals that were varied… which meant there were days when meat wasn’t necessarily a part of the meal. I think the meatless days were toward the end of the week… that’s when she used bits and pieces of whatever was left in the fridge or pantry. Some days we only had spinach and eggs… funny how I would find myself finishing the spinach first, so I could linger and enjoy the eggs:). In any case, when she didn’t have eggs, my mom would change the meatless meal to include other types of dishes… including mancare de praz. For some reason, even as a kid, I loved mancare de praz. Not sure how many kids would… 
Now, I have to admit that I’m posting this dish with a slight variation… it’s how I made it and just happens to be a bit different than what my mom used to make. My slight variation was that I ended up roasting the leeks before adding them to the tomato sauce…. wanted to add a tad bit more flavor to the overall dish. Yet my mom would add the leeks directly to the sauce… without roasting them. I am sure it was easier for her to do it that way, as she had plenty of other things to do. And really, you can choose to skip the roasting… this way you don’t need to heat up the oven or dirty another pan. You’ll just need to cook the leeks in the sauce until tender(or cook it along with the onion)… might need to add a bit of water throughout the cooking process.
So here is another Romanian dish that can be gluten-free, and it happens to be very healthy, meatless, and vegetarian…. with lots of fiber and good-for-you “stuff”. Oh, and if you have plenty of leeks on hand, it’s a great way to use them up:). Actually, we ended up getting an organic store here in town(yay!)… and they had a great deal on leeks. So I decided to take the opportunity to make the dish that I grew up with… at the same time am posting it under the Romanian cuisine for those of you who care to try it. And if you don’t care to make the complete dish, you can always opt to just roast the leeks. Roasted leeks are delicious on their own…. well, you can add a pad of butter and sprinkle on some toasted breadcrumbs or toasted nuts if you like. But that would be a different dish altogether:)  Hope you enjoy…              

Note: Can make this dish gluten-free, if you opt to use a GF thickener.

You will need:
3 large leeks(800 grams, or so)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Make Tomato Sauce:
Cook Onion:
1 medium onion
3 TBS olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
3 TBS water

Mix and add to cooked onion:
2 TBS tomato paste, 
2 TBS flour
2 tsps apple cider vinegar(can use more if you like)
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika(can use sweet)
2 cups water

1-2 dried bay leaves
Finish off with:
roasted leeks 
3/4 cup olives
1/2-1 cup extra water, or as needed
fresh dill/parsley, to taste
squeeze of lemon 
any additional salt or pepper as needed

Serve with:
crusty bread

  • Preheat oven to 475 deg F

1. Clean leeks and cut in 3/4-1 inch thick slices…. you can remove or cut off some of  the tough outer leaves.

Since leeks have the tendency to retain quite a bit of dirt I like to place the cut leek slices in a large bowl of water and allow to sit  for 5 minutes or so… I then toss them around a bit in the water so the dirt falls from the crevices.
2. Dry the leeks with a towel( or paper towels) to remove as much of the water as possible.
3. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large roasting pan and place the leeks in a single layer spreading it to fit the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

(I used the roasting pan that comes with my oven… has a 2 inch lip around the edge. You don’t want the pan to have too high of a side otherwise, the leeks will steam. You could use a baking sheet as well.) 
4. Place pan with leeks in hot oven and roast for about 20 minutes or so… or until the leeks take on some color. You will need to turn them every 10 minutes or so… and a bit more towards the end of the roasting time.
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While the leeks are roasting,  make tomato sauce.
1. Dice the onion. 
2. Add oil to a large skillet and heat on medium. 
3. Add diced onion, a pinch of salt and 3 TBS water. Stir to combine and cover. Lower heat to med-low( on the lower end) and cook till onion is tender about 10-15 minutes or so… lifting the lid every so often to stir and check that it’s not burning or gaining too much color… lower the heat further if need be.
In the meantime your roasted leeks should be about done, just remove from oven and set aside until needed.
4. In a large measuring cup( or bowl), whisk and combine the tomato paste, flour, vinegar, paprika, salt and 2 cups water. Pour over the the cooked onion.
5. Add the bay leaves. Stir to combine.
6. Bring sauce to a boil, lower heat  and simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
7. Add roasted leeks, olives and extra 1/2 cup-1 cup water, or as needed. Stir and combine. Cover  and simmer for another 10 minutes or so… checking for seasoning towards the end of cooking time and adjusting water to maintain a gravy-like consistency.
8. Remove lid and sprinkle fresh parsley or dill to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice to bring the sauce together. Serve with crusty bread.
The lemon juice is essential as it balances out the sweetness of the leeks and onion.   

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