Grilled Veg 6 - Leeks (Nero!)
Leeks - Made for the grill
Grilling subdues, ever so slightly,the sharp taste of a raw leek. Admittedly, leeks are a mild thing compared to a full-blown yellow, white, or red onion, but we want to take advantage here of the effect of grilling, and as we will see leeks were made for the grill.
Ancient they are, too, going back to Egyptian times. Pliny the Elder, the famous natural historian who lived from 23 to 79 AD and who died as the result of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, devoted a chapter to the leek, and wrote:
"While upon this subject, it will be as well, too, to speak of the leek, on account of the affinity which it bears to the plants just mentioned, and more particularly because cut-leek has recently acquired considerable celebrity from the use made of it by the Emperor Nero. That prince, to improve his voice, used to eat leeks and oil every month, upon stated days, abstaining from every other kind of food, and not touching so much as a morsel of bread even. "
We must say, mustn't we, that what is good enough for an Emperor is plenty good enough for us? Preparing this vegetable in this imperial manner is thus the culinary equivalent of giving a command performance, is it not?
A leek is a type of onion, as you no doubt already knew. Here we are going to grill our leeks alongside pieces of a regular yellow onion. The contrast between these two types of onion will be interesting.
We are going to keep it simple, by the way.
We start by cutting off the roots of the leek. Inspect the inside of the leaves where they turn from green to white and wash out any soil found there. This used to be more of a problem than it has been lately, no doubt due to improvements in how they are grown. But it is still worth checking.
Halve the leeks lengthwise.
Peel the yellow onion, cut it into two hemispheres, then quarter the hemispheres. You could just proceed to the grill with the two hemispheres, but in that shape they would take a bit longer to cook, and we want here to have the yellow onion ready at the same time as the leek is.
Same, but on the grill
Make sure you have preheated the grill. When it is pipping hot, it is time to add the vegetables.
It is an attractive picture, is it not?
Simple but appealing shapes, simple but appealing colors.
This does not take long on a preheated grill.
If the grill has hotspots, we need to shuffle the leeks around a bit to avoid burning. those pieces that are in the hotspots.
Generally, the leeks can be turned over after three or four minutes on the grill. They could be eaten raw of course, so there is no question of doneness, other than that associated with taste.
Done to a turn
Now, that they have been beautifully grilled, how do we use them?
They are great just as is. Add some melted butter, or some EVOO and coarse ground salt and pepper. That is all it takes to have a delicious side dish.
But there are also other possibilities.
And for EVOO, click here.
With teeny potatoes
Here the grilled leeks (and yellow onion) are combined with grilled teeny potatoes. For these see Grilled veg 7 -- potatoes (teeny).
Again, some butter or EVOO with coarse ground salt and pepper makes a superb side dish, or even a main course if we want.
The leek-potato combination is, of course, famous -- giving us the famous soup, for example. Potage Parmentier. The combination shown here is just another way to take advantage of these two partner vegetables.
(For Parmentier, see The Potato -- its story, its glory.)
This does everything up grand, and coverts our grilled leeks into components in a main course.
Everything here is grilled, the sausages, the teeny potatoes, and the leeks.
George Washington ate leeks.
Though he could not sing as well as Nero. Or, if he could, it has not been recorded.
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