I like to eat alone. Not all the time, naturally, but sometimes I like to prepare a nice meal and eat it all by myself, paying attention to my food or my thoughts or whatever it is I’m reading at the moment. It’s like taking myself out on a date. (This is unlike actual dating, however, since I’m always guaranteed good company.)
If I’m really stepping it up, there’s a sweet little French bistro in my old neighborhood that’s never once tried to sequester me to the bar but instead offers me a nice table where I can enjoy my dinner and my view. I like that. (I doubt I would have dared such a feat a decade ago, heading towards my mid-twenties. Also around the time I was having a bumpy dating stretch. Coincidence? I like getting older, too.)
More often than not, though, dining alone means an ersatz meal culled from a week’s worth of leftovers and jars of pickled things from the fridge, or a fried egg sandwich with Parmesan and hot sauce, or a swing by the taqueria. The it’s-eight-o’clock-and-I-haven’t-figured-out-what-to-eat evenings. Or there’s the Saturday afternoons with nothing on the agenda save for curling up with a novel, a throw blanket and a cup of tea. When I have a whole afternoon to myself.
That, my friends, is a leeks on toast kind of day.
Leeks belong to the allium family, a cousin of garlic, onions, shallots and scallions. They have a delicate version of their relatives’ flavors and are easily overpowered, so go easy with your seasoning. Leeks with a smaller diameter tend to be sweeter, and larger ones may need a few fibrous outer layers removed. They’re typically grown in a mixture of soil and sand, so rinse well to dislodge any grit trapped between layers.
The recipe, dear reader, is utterly plain: a melting heap of leeks cooked down in a little butter and wine, piled on top of toasted country bread that’s been kissed with garlic. Leeks on toast. Add some slices of Honeycrisp apple (year two of my Honeycrisp obsession continues), a chunk or two of aged gouda and a glass of wine or apple cider, and you’ve got a right proper lunch. Leftovers make for a delicious omelet (add a little goat cheese, if you like) or use the whole batch to fill a quiche or tart. Because even with all this dining-for-one talk, odds are you’ll want to share your good fortune.
Leeks on Toast
serves two, with leftovers for a next-day omelet
- 2 lb small-medium leeks
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- scant 1/2 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 2 tsp minced parsley
- 3 Tbsp – 1/4 C white wine
- garlic clove
- two thick slices of levain (or other crusty country bread)
Cut off the roots and dark green portions of the leeks and discard, leaving the white and light green portions behind. Slice the remaining portions of leeks into rings, about 1/4″ or so. Rinse well to remove any sandy grit. (Don’t worry about drying them off, the water clinging to the leeks will help them steam.)
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and salt, tossing in the fat to coat. Wilt down until leeks are softened and relaxed, about 10 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the alcohol is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and parsley and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, toast the bread. Rub each warm slice of toast with a peeled garlic clove and top with warm or room-temperature leeks.