I adore leeks. First introduced to me when I lived in Paris in my early 20s, their rich, sweet flavor and soft, yet sturdy texture had me smitten. The simple tart mustard dressing drizzled on top glistened.
Leeks are more delicate than an onion and have a distinct, almost creamy, texture. Try them in stews, soups and sauces. I always add them to my quiche recipes and frittatas. When slowly sauteed, they add a subtle onion taste that won’t overpower other flavors in a dish and can be substituted in almost any savory dish where an onion is called for. Once referred to as poor man’s asparagus, I think of leeks as a natural treasure of flavor and adaptability.
They are particularly delicious in later springtime when they show up in the market with a large white bulb and a few inches of light green stalk, as well as dark green at the top. Young spring leeks should be no more than 1 1/2 inches in circumference so they retain their delicate texture. Buy them with the long green leaves attached so you can cut them just before cooking for optimum freshness. If they are too large, they will have an unpleasant fibrous texture and may be less sweet.
People are also reading…
Leeks are very dirty, so make sure to clean them thoroughly. When cleaning leeks: Split them down the middle, making sure that the root is intact, and place under cold water to clean out any excess dirt. (You’ll find my video for this on YouTube.)
These leeks take on a California interpretation with a lemony Caesar dressing. The leeks are browned and braised in broth, lending a rich flavor to the dish. Dressed with this classic dressing, along with briny chopped olives and tangy capers and the braising broth, these leeks are garnished with fresh Parmesan shards. To make Parmesan shards, use a peeler and peel long thin strips of cheese.
This dish is delicious served hot or as a chilled first course on a pretty platter. It can also be served as a side dish with any grilled fish or poultry.
Braised Leeks with Olive and Caper Caesar Dressing
Serves 4 to 6
5 tablespoons olive oil
8 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped Niçoise or Kalamata pitted olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, garnish
Fresh Parmesan cheese shards. garnish
1. In a skillet large enough to hold the leeks in one layer, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Put the leeks in the skillet and cook, using tongs to turn them, for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the broth. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the leeks are tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer the leeks to a serving platter with a rim. Leave broth in skillet.
3. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, the lemon juice, mustard, anchovy paste and garlic to the skillet and whisk to combine over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the olives and capers to the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Pour over the leeks, sprinkle parsley and Parmesan shards over the leeks. Serve immediately or chill.
Advance preparation: This dish can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)