Warm Leek Salad with Fresh Walnuts Recipe

Salade Tiède de Poireaux aux Noix Fraîches

[Warm Leek Salad with Fresh Walnuts]

There is a special kind of grace in the simple combination of a few ingredients that you have on hand. The resulting dish has an air of spontaneity, a certain modesty, that makes it easy to love: you didn’t put much time or thought into it, there is little pressure on its shoulders to be successful, and this allows it to shine even brighter.

I was standing in the kitchen, thinking that something had to be done about the leeks sleeping in the vegetable drawer. Steaming them for a warm salad sounded nice, possibly with a lemon and olive oil dressing to tease their natural sweetness. My gaze then happened upon the fresh walnuts I had just bought from the produce store.

Fresh walnuts are simply walnuts that have been recently picked from the tree, as opposed to walnuts that have been stored for a while, causing their insides to shrivel and dry up. Fresh walnuts are a bit more difficult to break open, because their outer shell is still a little yielding, not yet rock-hard, and it doesn’t shatter as cleanly as that of a dried walnut. When you open it, you find that the brain-shaped flesh takes up the whole space, and there are traces of a slightly sticky sap. The walnut inside is much moister than a dried walnut, its thin skin peels off easily, and its taste is more subtle, less woody: fresh walnuts taste grassy and alive, holding but the promise of the familiar walnut bitterness that will develop later.

This sounded like the perfect ingredient to round out my dish, giving it a third taste dimension: a bit of sweetness from the leeks, a nice tang from the lemon dressing, and a hint of bitterness from the walnuts. The salad did not disappoint: very easy to put together, the different elements worked really well as a team, creating a clean, simple and enjoyable set of flavors.

Salade Tiède de Poireaux aux Noix Fraîches

– 1.4 kg (3 lbl) whole leeks (net weight: about 700 g (1.5 lbl) leek whites)
– 6 fresh walnuts, shelled and chopped roughly (dry walnuts will work too)
– 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– Salt, pepper

Serves 4.

Trim the leeks, cutting off the hairy end and keeping only the white and pale green parts. Cut in logs (about one inch) and rinse under cool water to remove any remaining grit or sand, but making sure the logs remain whole. Steam for ten minutes, or until tender. Let cool a little.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Divide the leeks between four plates (a possible presentation is to place the leek pieces vertically, as pictured above), drizzle with the lemon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, and place walnut pieces around each plate. Serve immediately.

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  • I’m sure it’s delicious !

  • Hi Clotilde,
    I’ve been reding your site for a long time and I enjoy it so much.
    And this recipe is exactly for me. In Turkey we cook leek and carrot together with olive oil and then we add a little bit rice. Before eating we add lemon juice. Try this. ;)
    I love fresh walnuts. Two months ago I went to a big garden in Adana, a mediterranean city in Turkey. The fresh walnuts were delicious. By trying to open it, the outer shell leaves a brown color on the skin. Some women use that color on their lips. My blog is in Turkish but
    if you would like to see the fresh walnut photographs
    it’s here: http://lezzetinizinde.blogspot.com/2005/08/akdeniz-portakal-bahesi-lezzetler.html .

  • It seems so light and delicious!

  • Neil

    Looks wonderful, Clotilde. Now if I could just find someone in this part of the US that could grow leeks with more than a 1/2 inch of white I would be really happy. I will have to try to see if I can find fresh walnuts here as they sound intreging.

  • I don’t care how many times I wash my leeks, I still get sand left in them and so have stopped cooking them. I only order them when I eat out and love them.

  • Christy

    I agree with Neil – leeks in the US are not like leeks in France (and probably everywhere else). Here they have a huge circumference and very little white. When I think of the gratins and salads and such my French friends eat I cry. American leeks would be just too much in those. Sigh.

  • Stateside: try to get them organic or at a really good farmer’s market. I haven’t had a problem obtaining leeks with the yummy white bit.

  • Hi Clotilde!
    I’ve been lurking around your fantastic site for quite a while now. I just had to share a few ideas about tomatillos as I recently had a glut of them myself. A salsa is a great idea. The easiest thing to do is to remove the husk and boil them for 10-15 minutes until they are tender. Scoop them out into a blender or processor with chopped onion, garlic, chopped jalapenos or serranos (whatever green chili you can get), cumin, S&P, lime juice and fresh coriander. You can use some of the cooking water if it is too thick. Another nice variation is to roast all the ingredients (except for coriander) until nice and brown and then whizz that up for a roasted salsa. Yum. Either one is good mixed up with avocado for a special guacamole. And if you take the green salsa, blend in a bit of chicken stock and cream, it also makes a great sauce for chicken enchiladas.

    They make a great chutney or jam and finally, something a little different- a sweet tomatillo sauce to go with a rich chocolate cake:

    1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
    1 lb small fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and roughly chopped
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar
    1/2 cup water
    4 tablespoons sugar
    2 sticks of cinnamon

    Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a heavy saucepan, then add the pod and remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered. Stir occasionally over moderate heat until tomatillos are very tender, 10-15 minutes.
    Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod, then blend tomatillo mixture until smooth. Cool completely. Delish!

  • joan

    Clotilde there’s a certain peace to the plate…such an artist you are…always thank you for the pattern of your words…and the sheer delight of each day’s snap…I wonder what tomorrow will bring :-) am wondering how many photos you took of the plate..and did it become “I wonder this one, or that one..”?

  • Susan

    what are your thoughts on replacing the olive oil with walnut oil? I purchase La Tourangelle brand of walnut oil and love it’s delicate flavor. Regarding leeks, I have previously mentioned the joy of Patricia Wells Bistro cookbook. Her leek and potato soup is rapturous. It is evocative of the heart and soul of sustenance

  • sounds delicious. those leeks look so perfect i could cry. id need a a second serving of this dish for sure!

  • efb

    Sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

  • Reading your blog brought me lovely memories of time spent at a friends house in soutwest London. She happens to be French too – not that it is important, but she had this most beautiful walnut tree in her back garden and when in season we use to shell them. I wish she still lived in England so that i could pick some up and mimic your salad.
    Thank you for another lovely reading by the way.

  • Judith in Umbria

    Clotilde, I made this salad today. It was wonderful. I had just harvested 30 litres of walnuts and was seasoning them, but they were lovely exactly so in this.
    I think the salad would be equally good with seasoned or cured walnuts, but I wouldn’t use the walnut oil. I wanted a bit of walnut with each bite of leek and got up during lunch to open some more. My guest and I found this delightful.

  • Jan

    I use a vegetable scrub brush and rinse my zucchini thoroughly before use and still occationally crunch on a piece of what feels like sand. Anyone have had the same experience and any suggestions? Thanks

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