Leeks - The Essential Ingredient

Give the stately onion the love it deserves

This time of year, one allium overshadows them all: the ramp.

So we're employing a different strategy. We're looking to another member of the onion family to provide our spring cooking with pep: the leek.

And we're not alone. Chefs prize this stalk for its mellow, sweet flavor and nice way of playing with other ingredients, a characteristic not shared by the overpowering ramp.

We've always admired Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin's skill with the vegetable; at the new incarnation of her wine bar, A.O.C., she is topping wood-fired focaccia with braised leeks, pancetta and goat cheese (see the recipe) for a perfect weekend lunch dish. For a more breakfast-appropriate option, our Test Kitchen team came up with an ingenious potato-leek hash (see the recipe).

The leek has also taken center stage through the revival of leeks vinaigrette, and we're especially partial to the version at The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, where chef Mike Lata finishes the dish with a perfect quenelle of caviar.

In Houston, the boundary-pushing chefs at The Pass & Provisions use charred leeks to flavor spaghetti that they toss with broccoli and fresh uni.

Smell ya later, ramps.