Some ingredients we buy with specific intent — oysters for a special occasion, for example, or a cut of meat with a certain recipe in mind, asparagus to celebrate its season or fancy melons for a well-loved guest. Other things we buy just to have in the house: onions, garlic, lemons, carrots, celery — staples that we don’t think much about but still rely on to make dinner. These are seldom the stars of the show, but without them our cooking would not taste the same.
We always have a leek in the fridge, often for no particular reason. We might use it in a soup or stew if we’ve run out of onions. Or it could be chopped up for a salad, quickly sautéed in a stir fry or sliced and put under a roast chicken. Good natured and sweet, it melds into the background.
But when they are young and tender in spring — and oh-so-sweet — we buy our leeks with a bit more intention. From anonymous backing singer, they step into the limelight.
New season leeks will make a timeless starter if you add a little judicious heat and a punchy sauce such as a lemony vinaigrette, a fiery romesco or a buttery hollandaise.
This pie should make for a memorable meal. The leeks are cooked in their own liquor until they reach a state of complete tenderness. Combined with some sharp cheese and flecks of all the best herbs, the filling wants for nothing except a crispy, flaky shell to nestle in. A good salad on the side and a peppy Riesling won’t hurt, either. Or crack open some decent champagne — after all, this is special-occasion cooking at its best.
To make a nine-inch pie that can easily be cut into eight slices
Their new book “Chasing Smoke: Cooking over Fire Around the Levant” is published by Pavilion, May 13
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