Barton Seaver is an interesting guy. Not only an expert chef, he’s also a National Geographic Fellow, a Harvard Director, and a man with a serious mission for sustainability in cuisine. That’s a mission I can happily get behind!

I have his second cookbook, Where There’s Smoke. It was actually a Christmas present, but focused as it is on grilling fresh vegetables, I haven’t been able to experiment with the recipes until now. The Midwest isn’t known for early spring.

This recipe, adapted from his book, was a revelation to this weekend – for the first time in ages, I preferred an herbivore’s side dish to the carnivorous centerpiece.

Leeks are favorites of mine already. There’s a primal thrill both to burying them in the coals of a fire and stripping away the charred layers. Meanwhile, the Romesco sauce is incredibly simple, but manages to feel both rustic and elegant, perfect for an outdoor party. I’m going to try adding paprika and chilis next time …

I highly recommend this dish (and the cookbook) to anyone who cooks over live fire.


Rinse the leeks and trim the green leaves away.
Bury whole leeks in the embers of a medium-hot charcoal or wood fire.
After 15-20 minutes, the outer layers should be charred black, and the vegetables yielding to the touch.
Remove the charred outer layers and cover with Romesco sauce.


4 plum tomatoes, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 small onion, medium dice
1 red bell pepper, medium dice
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds

Combine the ingredients with olive oil to coat and salt to taste.
Grill over a medium fire until the onion is softened, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to food processor and slowly add in 2 Tbsp olive oil.
Serve warm.