For this salad, baby leeks are simmered whole in water, with a little olive oil and some herbs and garlic. By the time the water has evaporated, the leeks are as tender as a mother's love. They are then left to colour and caramelise slightly in the remaining oil, and served warm with crumbled blue cheese and croutons.
I came up with this salad last week when I pounced on a big punnet of very beautiful baby leeks. Some I used to add a bit of pep to this dish of smoked tuna, and the rest went into this salad. These are best warm, but you can serve them piping hot (in which case add a little butter to the pan just as you finish frying them).
You can omit the chilli powder, if you like, but it does add colour and a little kick to the crunchy topping. The croutons should be crumbled over the salad at the very last minute to prevent them from losing their bite. A frying pan is essential, as the large surface area helps the water to evaporate quickly.
Finally, use a mild, creamy blue cheese, not a sharp one that will overwhelm the delicate taste of the leeks. I used Fairview's Blue Tower, a rich Gorgonzola-style cheese with a good crumbly texture. (Disclosure: this cheese was part of a consolaton prize I received after this recipe was a finalist in Fairview's Food Bloggers' Competition.)
Salad of Warm Baby Leeks with Blue Cheese and Chilli Croutons
30 baby leeks, topped and tailed
4 tsp (20 ml) olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled
a large sprig of fresh thyme
4 T (60 ml) white wine
salt and milled black pepper
water or vegetable stock, to cover
3 T (45 ml) lemon juice
one 100g wedge of creamy blue cheese
a little extra olive oil, for drizzling
For the croutons:
4 slices white bread, crusts removed
4 T (60 ml) vegetable oil
a pinch of chilli powder (or more, to taste)
Put the leeks, olive oil, whole clove of garlic, thyme and wine into a large frying pan and season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the leeks, and bring to the boil. Now turn down the heat and cook, uncovered, at a fairly brisk bubble for 20-30 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Allow the leeks to colour slightly in the oil remaining in the pan (but don't allow to burn).
While the leeks are braising, make the croutons. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pan. Tear the bread into little tatters and fry in the hot oil, tossing once or twice, until they are a rich golden brown. Drain on a piece of kitchen paper and sprinkle with chilli powder and a little salt.
Arrange the leeks on a platter and pour over the lemon juice. Top with crumbled blue cheese, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Using your fingers, roughly crush the croutons and scatter them over the salad. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as a starter or side dish. Print Friendly