What?s for lunch ? leeks in vinaigrette

October 29, 2007

I’m a fool for leeks and have been ever since I first had them served steamed and whole, drizzled in a lemony vinaigrette years ago when I spent a romantic Saturday in Paris with my then-boyfriend. My memories of the rest of the day are sketchy at best—I think we may have gone to a museum and walked around Montmartre—but I remember that leek appetizer in a Latin Quarter restaurant as though I’d ordered it yesterday. The dish was a revelation. Until I tried it, I thought leeks were just for soups and quiches, just another member of the onion family to be chopped and added to dishes for flavor. But no.

The French call leeks “the poor man’s asparagus” because when cooked, they turn sweet and tender but still hold their shape and can be eaten like a vegetable. Of course, in the United States, leeks aren’t as common and tend to cost more than asparagus ($2 a pound is the least expensive I’ve ever found them) so the name isn’t quite right for the other side of the Atlantic, but you get the picture.

Anyhow, now that fall’s here, leek season is in full swing and I’m eating them every chance I get. This week, I added a bunch of thin, young leeks to the vegetable-blanching queue, cooking them in boiling water 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. So for the past few days, I’ve been having them for lunch with a vinaigrette. And while chowing down on them in my kitchen isn’t anywhere near as romantic as ordering them in a Parisian bistro, there’s still a lot of love in every bite.

Leeks in Lemony Vinaigrette

Serves 2       Vegan        30 minutes or fewer

6 small leeks, dark green leaves trimmed and rinsed well

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbs. sunflower oil

1 Tbs. olive oil

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook leeks in boiling water 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with fork. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. Whisk together lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Whisk in oils, and season with salt and pepper. Place 3 leeks on each plate, and drizzle with vinaigrette.

—Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor