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Leeks look like a giant scallion and are related to both garlic and the onion. Native to the Mediterranean region, this vegetable dates back to around 4000 BC. Although its flavor and fragrance are similar to its relatives, they are slightly sweet tasting and often served as a side dish.
Leeks are found in markets year round with a peak during fall to early spring.
Select leeks with clean white bottoms making sure that the ends are straight and not larger than 1 ½ inches in diameter, otherwise they will have a tough texture. The tops should be green, crisp and fresh-looking. Small to medium leeks (less than 1½ inches in diameter) are the tenderest.
Refrigerate leeks, unwashed, in a loosely fitting plastic bag for up to one week. Storing leeks in plastic helps them hold onto moisture and keep the odor from spreading to other foods.
Leeks carry some dirt especially in between the layer of overlapping leaves. Begin cleaning by removing discolored leaves and trimming off green tops and root tips. Cut the leek lengthwise by inserting a knife from the base. Spread the leaves and rinse thoroughly. Placing the fanned out leaves in a bowl of water and gently moving the leaves will loosen any remaining dirt.
Leeks make excellent side dishes and appetizers but can also be added to many entrees including soups, stews, quiches, and salads.
This delicate vegetable cooks quickly and overcooking them will result in a slimy and soft product. In addition, they store heat well and will continue to cook even after the heat source is removed.
- Bake, broil, braise, sauté or microwave.
- Serve cooked leeks alone, seasoned with lemon juice, and herbs.
- Boil, drain and place in a casserole; season with grated cheese and bread crumbs, then bake until bubbly.
- Add to egg dishes, like quiches and frittatas.
- Include sliced or pureed leeks to soups, stews, and stocks.
- Add thin sliced leeks to salads.
- Combine leeks with other vegetables like carrots, squash, and beets for a colorful side dish.
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