As a cook I find that poached leeks with a simple vinaigrette makes a very satisfying first course, but for many of our customers they are just not glamorous. We have found a way to sex them up (the leeks, not the customers). We poach the leeks and then grill them to give them a slightly smoky flavor. Then we dress the grilled leeks with a walnut cream and top them with chopped walnuts. You may add chopped parsley or mint as a garnish and color accent.
Cut the most of the green tops from the leeks and trim the root ends but leave them intact. Split each one down the middle almost to the root end. Rinse them thoroughly by sloshing them around in a sink full of cold water.
Heat a large pot of water to simmering. Add the leeks and simmer gently until tender. Test by pinching the root end of the leek with your fingers; if it cracks slightly, it is done. Test each one, because they differ in thickness, and refresh them in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain well.
Heat the grill or broiler. Grill or broil the leeks just a few minutes to char the outside. Arrange 6 leeks on each of 4 salad plates. They can be served warm or at room temperature.
Just before serving, make the vinaigrette: Whisk the oils, cream, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste together in a mixing bowl or process in a blender or food processor. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks, then sprinkle with the walnuts and fresh parsley.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.