lunch, vegetables

The easiest, tastiest grilled leeks ever

March 27, 2008


I should start by saying that I have contracted a rather nasty stomach virus from our little lad Drake. Hardly any food is sounding good at all, and the sight of most food is pretty horrible to me as I write this. Strangely however leeks are not one of them right now (the list seems to change hourly).

So before they start making me swear off vegetables for life, I figured I should get this post out.

I have grilled a ton of vegetables in my past. Heck, in summers gone by we have lived off grilled vegetables. If you ask me, they are a great simple accompaniment to most grilled meats and fish. I would often do a mixture of zucchini, onion, red bell peppers, which would always hit the spot.

Being crappy weather outside, I wanted to start feeling like it was warm and sunny, at least in my food anyhow. So, a rummage through the fridge found some leeks. Ohh, I thought I haven’t grilled leeks in ages. Then “ewww, yeah, I haven’t grilled leeks in ages”.. I remember why now. In the past I would just chuck them on the barbie, tossed in a little olive oil, and call it done. What resulted were outsides that were cooked too much, and insides cooked not enough. Even on a low heat. The classic BBQ dilemma.

So, this time I figured something out different. I boiled the little buggers first. Then dumped them in an ice bath to stop cooking, when they were almost done. I really wanted the BBQ just to impart that slightly smokey flavor that makes you remember summers so fondly, and those great grill lines that we all love. And low and behold, it only bloody worked a treat didn’t it!

Perhaps everyone knows this but me, but I felt rather clever doing this to the poor leek.

Once grilled, I tossed them in some really good olive oil, a little white wine vinegar, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and some fresh basil. It was blooming great.

This dish honestly works best with baby leeks, however here I have taken small mature leeks, and cut them lengthways in half.

Some leek tips:

Leeks can hold a lot of dirt in their many layers. They should be really well washed. It is best to leave them sitting in cold water for 10 minutes, agitating them every couple of minutes to help get the dirt out.

You should remove the outer leek layer of mature leeks – it will most likely be tough and fibrous.

When buying, look for leeks that don’t look dried up and weathered. Also, make sure that the roots haven’t been cut off the end. This can dry out the white section (the best, most tender bit), and also make the leek loose nutrients.

Look for leeks that have a large white section – this is the most tender part of the leek. I use the green sections for flavoring stocks and sauces.

Grilled Leeks

6 baby leeks, or 3 mature leeks

Olive oil

Splash of white wine vinegar

Sea Salt

Fresh black pepper

Small handful of basil leaves

Start by washing the leeks as described above. Cut off the root. If you are using mature leeks cut them in half lengthwise. Discard the outer layer of mature leeks. Only discard the outer layer of baby leeks if looks tough.

Get a pot of boiling water on the go, and bung the leeks in there for a couple of minutes – until softened. Prepare an ice bath. Plunge the leeks into the ice bath, to stop further cooking. An overcooked leek is just as bad as an undercooked one.

Heat up the BBQ, grill pan or oven broiler to high.

Drain the now cold leeks, and dry gently using a paper towel. Toss with a little olive oil, and place on the grill, or under the broiler. Grill just for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned, and the grill lines appear.

Toss them into a bowl, and add another splash of olive oil, and a smaller splash of white wine vinegar. Add a pinch of sea salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the basil leaves into thin slices (chiffonade), and add those into the bowl of leeks. Gently toss to combine and serve immediately.


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  • Katia March 27, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Ooooh nice! I never thought of grilling leeks. And with basil? What an interesting combination of flavours. I just got some beautiful baby leeks in my surprise market panier and I think I’m going to have to try this tonight!

  • Candace March 27, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Gorgeous photos and food! Its obvious you really enjoy both.

    BTW… the Kona Kampachi was a free sample. Its hard to call it a “sample” as it weighed more than my chihuahua! So much that I still have enough in the freezer for 2 more meals. Perhaps you can contact them and they will send you a big honkin’ sample too. 🙂

  • michelle @ TNS March 27, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    thanks for unlocking the mystery of the grilled leek! i’m definitely trying this once official grilling weather gets here.

    i love serving leeks noodle-style ever since i tried this yummy recipe.

  • mattwright March 27, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Katia – you could use a variety of fresh tasting herbs to be honest- basil, flat leaf parsley, or even just a tiny bit of mint – to liven things up.

    Candace – Thanks! I really want to try the Kona, but think I will wait for them to contact me, or I will break down and get some from a local store 😀

  • Anticiplate March 27, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    This looks like a beautiful spring side-dish. Leeks are one of my favorite foods. They are wonderful in carbonara!

  • patsyk March 27, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I love leeks! I hadn’t tried grilling them before, but will be making a note of your recipe once it’s grilling season here. They look wonderful! Great pictures!

  • Jen (Modern Beet) March 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    What lovely plating!
    I’ve grilled all sorts of vegetables, but never leeks; I thought I would have a problem with them falling apart if cut in half, but not cooking all the way through if left whole… I’m glad to find your solution — baby leeks and par boiling! thanks!

  • RecipeGirl March 29, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Hmmm… I’ve never thought to grill leeks! I’ve heard that your weather has been cold and wet up there. Spring has sprung ’round my parts!

  • Chuck March 29, 2008 at 7:18 am

    The leeks look wonderful and the photos with the plain white plates and the worn wood in the background is perfect. I make a very good leek soup but, have never tried grilled leeks before. Perfect for the BBQ!

  • matt wright March 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Chuck – thanks, unfortunately the weathered wood backdrop is also our deck.. I really need to get out there and refinish it, but it does make such a great backdrop for photos!! Maybe I will keep a few old boards, nail em together, and make an impromptu stage for food photography!

  • RavenousCouple May 22, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I made this today and just posted about it….thank you so much for introducing this dish! You’re absolutely right on about it and you recipe. It was great and so easy with your instructions!!!

  • Davina April 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Leeks do have a reputation for being hard to clean. I find it a lot easier to cut them in half lengthwise first, then wash–this way you can really get in between the leaves.