Leeks with mustard vinaigrette is a Bistro classic. When I was the chef at Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco they were on the menu every day. Hayes Street Grill opened with Bistro style service. In addition to stellar fresh grilled fish, there were originally salad carts. Sides could be chosen Dim Sum style as waiters came through the dining room. Service style changed over the years but a few of those original salads stayed the course. One of them was “Baby Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette and French Feta”. I remember once suggesting that it might be time to take it off the menu and give it a rest. I created a near palace revolt with our customers. This dish has all the attributes of a classic. It is simple, comforting and delicious and no one wanted to give it up. Leeks in all sizes are in abundance this time of year at the Farmer’s Market. I was recently inspired by a beautiful bunch of small tender leeks I found at the Tuesday morning Petaluma Farmers Market. I served them as a side with a simple roast chicken but they can take on different roles. They are very good served slightly warm but also work well at room temperature or chilled. They are a great buffet option for that reason. They were a starter dish at Hayes Street Grill and were always a joy to plate because they are so beautiful. I use fresh local goat cheese as the garnish now and the dish is good with chopped hard cooked eggs and/or capers. Leeks provide a beautiful base note for soups and are distinctive in egg dishes like quiche. Leeks are a member of the allium family - onions, garlic and shallots. They are unique in the fact that they don’t form underground bulbs like their other family members. Like the other family members, however, they contain allicin which is a powerful compound that fights free radical damage in your body. They are a strong source of Vitamin A which is not only good for your eyes but assists in blood cell development. Here are the those beautiful “babies” from the Farmers Market, cleaned and ready to go into the steamer. Here they are in the steamer. Making the mustard vinaigrette. Here are the leeks fresh and warm out of the steamer and into the vinaigrette. Here is the recipe. Baby Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette with Fresh Goat Cheese Serves 6 Ingredients 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 4 anchovy fillets Pinch Kosher salt ⅔ cup McEvoy Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil ¼ cup McEvoy Ranch Pinot Noir Vinegar 2 tablespoons water 30 baby leeks, trimmed and rinsed ¾ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese, local options are Laura Chenel, Redwood Hill or Cypress Grove 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley Directions
- Place the mustard, sugar, anchovy or anchovy paste and salt in a small food processor. Gradually add the olive oil. Add the vinegar and water and process until thick and emulsified. Taste the dressing for balance and add salt if necessary.
- Cut a slit in each of the leeks. Place them in a large container and cover with cold water. Soak the leeks for 20 to 30 minutes to dislodge any sand.
- Rinse to be sure they are clean.
- Add 1 inch of water to a large pot fitted with a steamer insert. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the leeks to the steamer insert and cook for approximately 5 minutes until the leeks are tender. Test them with a paring knife which should insert easily.
- Remove the leeks and let them dry briefly on a towel.
- Toss the leeks with the mustard vinaigrette. Arrange the leeks on plates or a platter, top with the crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
- If you are going to serve the leeks cold or at a later time, refrigerate the leeks and dressing separately and dress just before serving. The vinaigrette will change the bright green color of the leeks drab if they are dressed ahead.