The alluring first signs of spring–like radishes and leeks–are the best cooking inspiration.
They were not on my shopping list. And these days, I am trying to stick to a food budget.
But those leeks–the elegant and mild-mannered member of the onion family–besotted me. Leslie was still unpacking the produce from a local grower at Ruby Peak Naturals and there I stood hovering… admiring.
Smiling over the edible signs of spring.
There were also the teensiest radishes, more greens tops than crunchy root. “I’ll take those, too,” I said, grabbing two bags of squeaky fresh salad greens.
Not to be greedy, but by the time spring hits here we are hungry for green things, anything green.
The goats, sheep and cattle get the new grasses and we get a tease for what’s to come: one of the shortest growing seasons in the Northwest. We are grateful for what comes from the still-cold soils.
Nearly a week later, when the salad greens were long gone I noticed the coveted leeks and token radishes. I happened to have the first grill of the year firing up, so when it was good and hot, I lay the trimmed and halved leeks above the coals.
A lot of leek recipes have you trim off the green part and use only the white. I love the green parts! On store-bought leeks the tops are often limp or even wilted–not to mention tough–and I trim them off for the stock pot.
But these newly harvested taut leeks were fresh from bottom to top.
Treated to a controlled char on the grill alongside the radishes (tops and all), I lay them on a plate and dressed them with a bracing mustard vinaigrette.
Effortless. Fulfilling. Rewarding.
With a few radishes thrown in!
Grilled Leeks Vinaigrette
Get a jump on the grilling season with this early spring salad of grilled leeks. You can make this salad while the coals are getting warmed up for the main course. The key to grilling leeks is to arrange the leeks so that the white ends are over the hottest center part of the grill and the greens on the cooler outer edge. Go for some good browning on the leeks before turning them or pulling them from the grill.
For the grilled leeks:
- 2 large leeks, ends trimmed, split down the center and well rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground mustard
- 1/2 cup walnut oil or any other extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to a medium-high flame.
Arrange the leeks on a baking sheet and rub them with the oil and season with the salt. Arrange them on the grate flat side down and grill without moving them until grill marks appear on the white ends. Turn to the other side and grill until the white parts are tender and give when you press them with a fork or finger, about 10 minutes total.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk the shallot, vinegar and mustard in a bowl until well blended. While whisking add the oil and season with the pepper. Whisk vigorously to blend. It be thick and tangy from the mustard.
When the leeks are grilled arrange them on a platter and spoon the vinaigrette over them. There will be extra vinaigrette to pass at the table. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Feel free to add some radishes with their fresh tops on the grill with the leeks and combine on the platter for serving with the vinaigrette.