Leeks aren’t exactly a spring vegetable – they’ve been at the market most of the winter – but spring brings those young, skinny leeks, seemingly born anew in the warm weather, and I positively love them.
It takes a while to soften the big, sturdy leeks of winter, but the spring ones submit almost effortlessly, melting into butter just like shallots would. After not long at all, the leeks are impossibly mild and sweet. They make everything better.
I tucked this first batch into a bowl of just-cooked wheatberries. I left the two to mingle for a few minutes, as the wheatberries went from steaming hot to just warm. Meanwhile, I snipped some fresh chives and poached an egg the control freak way. And then, I sat on our deck, broke my egg over the wheatberries, and ate lunch.
If this is all too pure for you, there are plenty of ways to doll it up. Add some flaked salmon or snapper; toss in some marinated tofu; or chop up some chard or spinach and fold it into the berries. If you’re feeling crazy, pour the wheatberries, leeks, and greens into a gratin dish, top with a couple raw eggs, grate some hard cheese overtop, and tuck the dish under the broiler for a few minutes. <That’s lunch for company.
Wheatberries with Melted Leeks and Poached Eggs
Serves 2, maybe with leftovers
1 cup wheatberries
3-4 baby leeks or 1-2 large leeks
2 tablespoons butter
4 chives, minced
Bring a pot of salted water (or part water, part broth) to a boil over high heat. Add wheatberries, and once the water has returned to a boil, lower heat, cover pot, and cook about 1 hour, adding extra water if needed, until wheatberries are tender.
Meanwhile, clean the leeks. Slice off the root end of the leeks and the dark green tops – you’ll only be using the white and light green parts. Quarter the leeks lengthwhise, then slice them crosswise into small pieces. Clean very well: I do this by dumping the bits of leeks into a strainer set over a bowl, filling the bowl with water, swirling the leeks around to free the dirt, and then straining them by pulling the strainer out of the bowl. If your leeks are from the market, you’ll probably need to do this several times to get the leeks thoroughly clean. It’s worth it – gritty leeks suck.
Add the butter to a shallow saute pan set over medium heat. When butter has melted, add leeks and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to combine, and when leeks start to hiss, add a couple tablespoons of water. The water is especially important with bigger leeks, which need some help softening. Now, cover the pan (if you don’t have a cover, tin foil will work), turn the heat to medium-low, and let the leeks melt, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it looks like they’re browning before they’re soft. This should take about 20 minutes. When leeks are melted and soft, remove from the heat.
Drain cooked wheatberries and transfer them to a large bowl. Add leeks and fold together to combine.
Poach the eggs when you’re just about ready to eat. There are many ways to do this; my favorite is to poach them in the shell, in just-barely-hot water. I get that isn’t exactly unfussy, so you can also just simmer a shallow pot of water with a couple teaspoons of vinegar, swirl a fork around the pot a couple times to get the water moving, add a couple eggs, and poach them for about 2 minutes until the white is just
Spoon the wheatberries into bowls, set the poached eggs on top, and sprinkle the chopped chives over everything. Break the eggs, mix into the wheatberries, and enjoy.