“The slower, the better, when you simmer the leeks,” my Turkish friend and fellow foodie Engin Akin advises me on the phone from Istanbul. Engin, who hosts a weekly food show on Turkish radio, adds: “It's all about creating silky texture and natural flavors and aromas.”
I call this method of slow cooking vegetables, which enhances their flavor by forcing them to reabsorb their own moisture, Mediterranean alchemy. It relies on self-basting, usually in a sturdy pot in which the vegetables are cooked in their own juices. To keep the cooking temperature low and constant and to encourage recycling, the pot must be heavy bottomed and tightly covered.
This method is used all around the Mediterranean to cook winter and spring vegetables such as leeks in this recipe, artichokes, cardoons, celery, celery root, fat green beans, favas, and white turnips. The vegetables turn creamy within while remaining firm enough to hold their shape. The method also sweetens slightly bitter vegetables, such as cardoons, by caramelizing them ever so slightly.
Serve these leeks later in the day, or, even better, the following day.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.