I advocate this week on behalf of summer leeks, which tend to get overlooked at the farmers market. They are milder in flavor than their winter-harvest ilk and saute easily into the kind of savory, slip-sliding mix-in that makes this pasta dish such a happy jumble.
Even with its thinner profile, the summer leek still needs the same care and attention to rid its many layers of grit. Because we're slicing them into thin rounds, it's best to drop them into a bowl of cold water with ice cubes and let them sit for a few minutes, during which time the grit will fall to the bottom. Then, use slotted spoon to lift them out of the water - don't tip the bowl and drain or the grit will be reintroduced. If a few ice cubes go into the pan, that's OK.
For this recipe, be sure to look for dried fettuccine packaged in cello bags - the noodles will be eggy and delicate-looking, not the straight and wider dried fettuccine in a box. They will cook more quickly and insinuate themselves well with the saucy leeks, shrimp and almonds.
The dish is light-tasting. Even though it's pegged at four to six servings, if you don't have that many plates to fill, I recommend making the batch as is for leftovers the next day. Just add a handful of chopped fresh tomato or avocado cubes, a splash of white wine vinegar and/or olive oil for Round Two, served cool or at room temperature.
Fettuccine With Leeks, Shrimp and Toasted Almonds
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3 medium or 4 thin leeks 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed 8 ounces dried fettuccine, preferably Al Dente brand 2 cloves garlic Leaves from 4 stems flat-leaf parsley 1/2 cup sliced almonds 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound large peeled/deveined shrimp (no tail shells) 3/4 cup dry white wine 3/4 cup no-salt-added chicken broth 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 lemon
Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Fill a mixing bowl with water and ice cubes.
Trim the leeks (discarding dark greens and root ends) and split them in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into thin slices, then transfer to the ice water bath and let soak for 10 minutes.
Add a good pinch of the salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta. Cook for about 3 minutes, or just until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander in the sink.
Meanwhile, mince the garlic. Chop the parsley leaves.
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat; add the almonds and toast for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel to cool.
Add the oil to the skillet; increase the heat to medium. Once the oil shimmers, use a slotted spatula to lift the leeks out of their ice-water bath and transfer them to the skillet; do not tip and drain the leeks, to avoid reintroducing any grit.
Add the garlic to the skillet, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the leeks are fragrant and beginning to soften.
Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, then pour in the wine and broth. Season with the salt and pepper, then cook for about 5 more minutes. Add the butter and parsley, stirring until the butter has melted. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon half.
Transfer the fettuccine to the skillet and turn off the heat; toss to coat and incorporate the sauce and shrimp. Taste and add salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Note: The dried fettuccine that works best here is the crinkly kind available in most supermarkets, typically packaged in a cellophane bag. Nutrition information per serving (based on 6): 320 calories, 23 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar.
Source: Adapted from "In a Nutshell: Cooking and Baking With Nuts and Seeds," by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian.