As long as I can remember, my mother has been making a version of this ultra-classical dish, a recipe she picked up as an au pair in Paris. She always served it cold as a salad course, but I prefer it warm as a starter—it’s so nice with a glass of Champagne. Basil is not traditional, but the slight licorice flavor works well with the leeks. Once you’ve made this a few times, you’ll see how versatile it is; I think it’s substantial enough to be an entrée with a piece of rye toast, especially for a summer evening, or a simple, elegant side if you leave off the bacon and pine nuts.
- Bring a medium pot of about 1 quart water to a boil over high heat.
- Clean the leeks well: Cut off the root end of the leek and about half of the pale green top. Split the leek lengthwise. Rinse the leeks well under cold running water, making sure to open up the layers and wash away any dirt between the layers while keeping each piece intact.
- Cut the leeks crosswise into pieces 2 to 3 inches long. When the water is boiling, add the butter and leeks to the water and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Gently simmer the leeks for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife but still hold their shape.
- Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook, shaking the pan every 20 to 30 seconds, until they are lightly toasted. Pour the nuts out onto a plate. Don’t let the pine nuts stand in the skillet, or they will continue to toast and eventually burn.
- Wipe out the pan. Add the grapeseed oil and heat it over medium heat. Cut the bacon into strips about ¼ inch wide and 2 inches long. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crisp and brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and put on paper towels to drain.
- Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in the olive oil a little at a time.
- Arrange the leeks on a platter. Pour the dressing over the leeks and season them with salt and pepper. Sprinkle them with the bacon and pine nuts and season with more salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.