Leeks, a member of the onion family, are are a delicious, delicately flavored vegetable. More subtle than onions, leeks are widely adored in France and the British Isles. In Wales, leeks are part of that country’s national emblem.
Unlike onions, leeks do not form bulbs but instead grow thickened stems, from which sheaths of leaves emerge. The edible part is this stem, which is blanched white by piling soil high around it (trenching), and the light-green portion of the leaves.
In America, the most famous use of leeks is in vichyssoise, that creamy potato and- leek soup made famous in the mid-1900s by New York City Ritz-Carlton chef Louis Diat, who recalled it from his French childhood. Leeks, however, are very versatile, lending their sophisticated, delicious character to any dish calling for onions.
Storage Leeks should be stored unwashed and loosely wrapped in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. They will keep for up to 1 or 2 weeks this way.
Leeks grow in soil that is piled high around their thick stems to make them turn white (and stay mild and tender). Trim off the large, dark green leaves (save them for making stock) and cut off the root end. Then cut the leek lengthwise into halves and run those exposed areas under running water to rinse away dirt. Another method is to cut the leeks crosswise into small pieces (typically about ¼ inch), then swish the pieces in a bowl of cold water. Let the dirt settle, and lift the leeks out of the water.
QUICK MEAL PREP:
Sauté thinly sliced leeks in a bit of oil or butter on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Leeks can be stir-fried over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Roasting leeks in the oven is one of the best ways to prepare this vegetable, as it concentrates their flavor and accentuates their sweetness. Preheat the oven to 400°F, trim and clean whole leeks, slice them in half length wise or leave them whole, and brush with olive oil or butter. Place the leeks in an oiled shallow roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, occasionally basting them with the pan juices or a bit more oil or butter to keep them moist.
Leeks become creamy and subtly sweet when baked. Serve them hot or cold with vinaigrette dressing, or layer them in a dish with ham and cheese and bake until they are hot and bubbling.
Sprinkle thinly sliced raw leeks atop salads.
Don’t throw away the trimmed darker green tops; they make wonderful , soup stock.
Bake leeks and asparagus together and top with hollandaise sauce for a , first-class dish worthy of royalty—or your family.
Throw oiled and seasoned leeks on the grill along with tomatoes and peppers for a tasty summer treat. Braise whole, halved, or chopped leeks in chicken or meat stock until the leeks are soft and glazed.
Mix finely chopped raw leeks with sour cream, a little pepper, and Worcestershire sauce for a refined chip dip.
For a delicious, hearty vegetable side dish, place leeks, sweet potato wedges, , and whole garlic cloves in a casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil, seasoned salt or Old Bay seasoning, and pepper. Cover and bake in a 375°F oven for about 1 hour, or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Braised leeks make a sumptuous accompaniment to rich meats like roast , pork, beef, and lamb. Sauté leeks with fennel for a tasty, surprise vegetable side dish.
POTATO LEEK SOUP
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups leeks, white and part of the green included, well-washed and chopped
½ cup chopped onions
6 cups cubed potatoes (any variety), skins on
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, chopped
7 cups vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or soy milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium soup pot. Stir in the leeks and onions. Cook on low heat, without browning, for 5 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes, carrot, celery, stock, and salt. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
3. Let the soup cool slightly. Puree it in a blender or run it through a food mill.
4. Add the milk. Return the soup to the pot and gently reheat. Do not let it boil, as this will scald the milk.
Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve. — Tracy, Featherstone Farm CSA member