Sometimes I’m at a loss for inspiration on what to make for dinner, and that’s when I usually turn to my tapas books to spark my imagination. It may seem counterintuitive to pick several dishes to make instead of just one or two, but I’ve found that once I select one, I can more easily form a menu that scratches several itches over the course of the meal. I’ll go for a vegetarian option, and a meat option, and depending on how involved they are, maybe another vegetarian tapa.
One of the reasons why José Andrés’s first US cookbook Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America is a perennial resource for me is because of the sheer variety of tapas recipes. I’ve written about other tapas from this book in posts from long ago, and it says something that ten years later I’m still returning to this book again and again.
This mushroom and leek tapa is a simply wonderful way to enjoy spring while being a fairly straightforward recipe. The leeks simmer and create a wonderful broth that forms the basis of the dressing, while the mushrooms get sautéed over high heat before being artfully arranged over the leeks and finished with minced scallions. It’s a dish that works for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike, especially as an opening course.
Spring leeks with mushrooms
Lightly adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés et al
Serves 2-4 as a tapa, depending on how hungry you are
- ½ TB salt plus more to taste
- 1 TB black peppercorns
- 4 large or six small leeks, outer leaves removed, trimmed of dark green parts, and well-washed (let them float in a bowl of water to help get out the sand
- 3 TB Spanish extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- 6 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed and torn
- 1 TB minced shallots
Bring two cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan and add ½ tablespoon of kosher salt and the peppercorns before adding the leeks. Reduce the heat to let the leeks simmer gently until tender, about six to ten minutes, before removing them and reserving a tablespoon of the water before draining the rest. If the leeks are on the larger side, carefully slice them in half and set aside.
In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking two tablespoons of the olive oi with the balsamic vinegar and the leek cooking water. Arrange the leeks on plates and drizzle them with the dressing.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan, heat the pan to medium, and then add the mushrooms. Let them brown undisturbed for two minutes, and then turn and let them brown for another two minutes on the other side. Season well with kosher salt and remove from the heat.
Divide the mushrooms among the leeks and then gently top with the minced scallions and serve immediately.