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
Test Kitchen Notes
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
8-10 (as a side dish)
Medium-sized leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
small onion chopped
tomato juice (a small can of diced tomatoes, with juice, also works nicely)
Clean the leeks, submerging them into water, and then cut them into 1 to 2-inch pieces.
Put the oil in a pan, and once it is hot, add the leeks.
Sauté the leeks by shaking the pan, so that they don't lose their shape.
Once the leeks have begun to soften, add the onion and sauté. Add both sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
After a few minutes, add the tomato juice, the cinnamon stick and about 1/3 cup water.
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).
Once the liquid has almost evaporated, add the prunes and shake the pan again.
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).
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.