The great by-product of cooking classes is the mise en place that we teachers get to take home. So when I opened the refrigerator and saw a container of ground ginger, the parade of fragrant spices still on the counter and the spring trifecta of alliums: leeks, green garlic and scallions, you could practically see the thought bubble form. Instead of my usual Italian way with braised leeks (see Cucina Fresca) I would make a spring dish infused with spice and fragrance.
I find the freshly ground mixture of roasted coriander and cumin seed to have a lovely earthy lemonyness. So I started by spooning the solid “head” of coconut milk into the pan. Then I added chopped garlic. After a brief saute I layed the leeks and green garlic in the pan then scattered sliced scallions and the ground spice mixture over with a bit of salt. Then I spied some tangerines, still good, but not fabulous for eating out of hand. I cut them in quarters and added them to the pan with the remaining coconut milk. The alliums cooked covered over low heat until tender (about 15 minutes). The finished dish is pale in color but vivid in flavor. The coconut milk browned a bit and lent a lusciousness to the silkiness of the braised leeks. The coconut milk braised tangerines? Next time I’m adding twenty. Now that is a genius dish.