A trip to my local farmer’s market often leaves me feeeling like a kid in a candy store. The pièce de résistance this week – a beautiful bunch of biodynamic baby leeks. Baby leeks make a brief seasonal appearance, nature’s indicator of the fleeting moments between spring and summer. I find baby leeks to be slightly sweeter, less stringy, and simply beautiful compared to their fully mature counterparts.
Leeks add beneficial fiber, cancer fighting polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals, including one compound most noted in garlic, allicin. Allicin is an anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial that produces a compound upon digestion which kills disease causing free radicals (all without the garlic breath!).
Taking my other late spring/early summer purchases, I created a simply grilled salad highlighting flavors with fresh herbs, robust olive oil, and jammy balsamic reduction. When grilled, the natural sweetness of each ingredient is highlighted and the flavors elevated. Nature’s bounty truly doesn’t need much to shine when using farm to table, seasonal ingredients.
Grilled Baby Leek Salad
4-6 whole baby leeks, cleaned and trimmed
1 large or 2 small zucchini squash, halved lengthwise
1 large or 2 small yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
2 ears organic corn, husked and cleaned
½ bunch asparagus, ends cut
8-10 button or baby portabello mushroom, cleaned and trimmed
¼ cup olive oil (for brushing vegetables)
2 T. fresh thyme (for brushing vegetables)
4 cups baby spinach, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, dill, and cilantro (optional), finely chopped
½ avocado, diced
2 T. 18 yr. aged balsamic vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil
pinch of cracked pepper & sea salt
Prepare grill to medium high heat range. Combine prepared vegetables in a large bowl, coating evenly with olive oil, fresh chopped thyme, sea salt, and pepper.
Carefully arrange vegetables over grill rack, dispersing so that heartier vegetables are placed over areas of higher heat, while thinner vegetables are moved to outside areas. Grill vegetables, approx. 3-4 minutes on each side, turning over and rotating as needed (mushroom, corn, and leeks will take longer).
When each vegetable has the desired amount of char, remove from grill and allow them to cool. While cooling, mix your finely chopped spinach, finely chopped herbs, and dressing. Toss well to coat, reserving some dressing to finish salad.
Cut cooled vegetables into bite size portions, cutting the corn directly off the cob, zuchhini into approx.1-inch cubes, mushrooms quartered, and asparagus diced. Leave the leeks whole. Toss vegetables, with the exception of the leek, into the spinach and herb mix. Toss well, place into desired serving dish and finish salad by artfully arranging the whole grilled leeks on top.
Drizzle with final portion and dressing and enjoy warm or chilled.