Greek-Style Leeks with Prunes and Cinnamon

By • January 1, 2013 • 17 Comments


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Author Notes: This recipe came to me from my Greek boyfriend's mother, who, in turn, adapted it from a Greek cookbook by Evi Voutsina ("Greek Tastes"). When I was looking for a way to cook leeks, she suggested that I go "Greek" and combine them with prunes, a cinnamon stick, olive oil and tomato juice, claiming that the dish is always a success when she prepares it for dinner parties. While I was initially skeptical, given what I perceived as a strange combination of flavors, the dish ended up being revelatory. The leeks become sweet as they cook, softening their otherwise onion-y flavor; the prunes transform the dish, adding a tangy note to a dish dominated by earthy alliums. And the cinnamon stick, with its dash of spice, makes the meal sing. In a way, this dish is nothing short of Greek magic. dusty516

Food52 Review: All right. I'll be honest -- the prospect of a prune-cinnamon-leek-tomato melange struck me as a bit odd. But I trust in the Greeks. And after preparing this dish, I'm glad I did. The spicy cinnamon and tart tomatoes just work perfectly with the sweet, caramelized, slow-cooked leeks. And the prunes! The staple of immature puns, baby food, and nursing homes, or a rising gastronomical star? Take one bite of this dish, and I trust you'll choose the latter.Macedoine

Serves 8-10 (as a side dish)

  • 8 Medium-sized leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 8 ounces tomato juice (a small can of diced tomatoes, with juice, also works nicely)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cups dried prunes (pits removed)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Clean the leeks, submerging them into water, and then cut them into 1 to 2-inch pieces.
  2. Put the oil in a pan, and once it is hot, add the leeks.
  3. Sauté the leeks by shaking the pan, so that they don't lose their shape.
  4. Once the leeks have begun to soften, add the onion and sauté. Add both sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. After a few minutes, add the tomato juice, the cinnamon stick and about 1/3 cup water.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and then, as the liquid begins to evaporate, to a gentle simmer. (The goal is to have most of the liquid evaporate; you may have to turn the heat up to achieve this. However, this will also help the leeks to soften).
  7. Once the liquid has almost evaporated, add the prunes and shake the pan again.
  8. The dish is ready when the leeks and prunes have both become soft and the olive oil and tomato juice have evaporated (following the advice of my boyfriend's mother, I put the leeks in the oven at 325°F for about 10-12 minutes to finish them off).
  9. Remove from the oven and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Prepare to fall in love with leeks -- if you haven't already.

Comments (17) Questions (0)

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about 1 year ago ortolan

Just made this tonight with 2/3 can of diced tomatoes. I made it as a side dish for Ottolenghi's Poached chicken with sweet spiced freekeh from Jerusalem. The dish would have been unremarkable without the leeks--they made it transcendent! I highly recommend making this dish to pair with a whole grain meal. Thank you for the inspired pairing of leeks, tomatoes, prunes, and cinnamon!

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about 1 year ago dusty516

So glad to hear it saved the day (and so sad to hear that the poached chicken was a bit of a disappointment! I really liked the roast chicken with sunchokes and lemon from Jerusalem)! And thanks for the comment!

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about 1 year ago ortolan

The chicken and Jerusalem artichokes is truly divine, I agree! One of my favorite recipes ever.

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about 1 year ago Tarragon

Looks wonderful, like a Greek tsimmis!

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about 1 year ago dusty516

Thank you! Hope you like it!

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over 1 year ago dusty516

drbabs, thanks for your comment; I'm really glad you liked the recipe. Whenever I've made this, I've always ended up with enough servings (and leftovers) for a small group (6-8 people). It may be that our servings were small since there were a lot of things on the table--roasted pork, salad, bread, appetizers--and we were saving room for dessert. I can say, however, that, even with leftovers, it's always something that I wish I'd have made more of when the meal is over!

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

Also -- your lovely photo shows a dish with far more than 1/3 cup of prunes. Is the recipe correct?

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over 1 year ago dusty516

Proofreading, in all things, is essential, so my apologies! I usually use a kitchen scale when cooking and I'm not the best measurement converter. In any case, I tend to use anywhere from *2*/3 cup-1 cup of prunes when making this--125-250 grams of prunes (really, it's whatever strikes my fancy. And, of course, it also depends on how afraid I think my guests are of prunes; some people really don't like them. I blame their reputation). Sometimes I roughly chop them, sometimes I leave them whole; I think they look prettier whole, but you feel like you're getting more when they're halved.

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

:-) Thanks!! I'm putting the leeks in the hot oil right now!

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over 1 year ago dusty516

Great! Hope you like the dish! :)

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

I will let you know! Serving it to a vegetarian friend tomorrow.

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

I'm giving this a try today. But I have a question: What do I do with the onion? Chopped? Coarsely, finely? Sliced?

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over 1 year ago dusty516

Cookbookchick, I don't know why I left that bit about the onion out, but I've always finely chopped the onion. My thought is that since leeks are supposed to be the star of the show, the onion should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sorry about that!

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

Thanks! And how about the quantity of prunes?

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over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I made this for dinner with roast chicken last night. I used chopped tomatoes instead of juice, and added a couple of dashes of cayenne. We loved it--it was a great side dish to chicken. One minor quibble--8-10 servings? I halved the recipe and only have about 2 tablespoons left over after dinner for 2. (Maybe that's just because we both liked it so much.) Thanks for a great recipe.

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over 1 year ago dusty516

Thank you!! It's quickly become one of my favorite dishes to prepare; I hope you like it if you try it!!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

This sounds delicious. Love the photo!