Leeks Simmered in Olive Oil

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

“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.


  • 2 pounds leeks, roots trimmed, thick outer skins removed
  • cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice, preferably medium-grain
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Soak the leeks in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and cut into 2-inch lengths. Thoroughly rinse to remove any sand. Drain well.
  2. Combine the onion, olive oil, and carrots in a large, heavy casserole and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the leeks and sugar, cover with a sheet of crumpled parchment paper or foil and a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. (Leeks and carrots should cook in their own moisture. If necessary, add 1 tablespoon water.)
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, soak the rice in hot water to cover for 10 minutes; drain.
  4. Add the rice to the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, tightly covered, over low heat for 20 minutes longer.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Leave the pan uncovered to cool before transferring the leeks to a serving dish. Spoon the vegetables and rice over the leeks, garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve at room temperature or chilled.