In Northern Spain during springtime, chalkboards outside bars excitedly announce that leeks are in the house, a testament to the hype around this seasonal delicacy. That’s where I fell in love with braised leeks — velvety, voluptuous and subtly sweet, drizzled with olive oil and served room temperature.
Now combine that image with smooth and creamy labneh, crunchy marcona almonds and no shortage of fresh herbs and za’atar. This dish is a stunner worthy of a gorgeous brunch, lunch or other festive spring occasion. Serve with flatbread to make it into a meal or as part of a mezze.
Make the component parts ahead and assemble when ready. The leeks are easiest to eat when cut into smaller pieces, which you can do before piling them on the labneh; or serve them whole for a more dramatic presentation. Marcona almonds really are worth it for this dish but, if need be, you can substitute toasted almonds.
BRAISED LEEKS WITH LABNEH AND MARCONA ALMONDS
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups whole fat plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon salt
5 to 6 large leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup seasoned vegetable broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup chopped marcona almonds
½ cup fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, mint or dill
Mix together the Greek yogurt and salt and place in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate overnight to allow the whey to strain from the yogurt and thicken it into creamy labneh. Discard the whey (or save to use when making bread, pancakes, smoothies, etc.).
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, being sure to rinse between the layers but keeping the leeks intact.
Place the leeks cut-side down in a single layer in a 9- by 13-inch roasting pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine and vegetable broth (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks). Season with salt and pepper and snip the thyme sprigs over the top.
Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are completely tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.
To assemble, spread the labneh across a large serving platter. Drain the leeks of the braising liquid (can be saved to flavor a soup or stock) and arrange atop the labneh. Season with some fresh cracked pepper and salt, sprinkle with za’atar seasoning and scatter the marcona almonds and fresh herbs over the top. Lastly, drizzle with some good olive oil and serve.
Registered dietician and food writer Laura McLively is the author of “The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook.” Follow her at @myberkeleybowl and www.lauramclively.com.
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