Leeks are not a mainstay of American cooking. Mellow in flavor and known for their subtlety, leeks are overshadowed by onions and garlic, their more assertive cousins. But, perhaps there is more to their underutilization than their demure nature. They can seem like a bit of effort. Grown in sandy soil, leeks require very thorough cleaning. But, according to David Lebovitz, culinary American-in-Paris, it is worth the effort to cook with leeks and break out of the onion routine.
“They do require a bit more preparation, but you don’t have to deal with those papery skins flying all over your kitchen, which I think is a pretty decent trade-off.”
Truth is, they really aren’t that much work. See for yourself.
- Trim the dark green and tough section from the top and carefully cut away the stringy portion from the bottom. Be careful to not cut off the whole bottom end or the leek will fall into pieces. Either discard these trimmed portions or rinse them and save them for making broth. The stringy end portion can also be diced and added to soup or sautéed with other vegetables.
- Using a medium or large knife, make one long slice length-wise, cutting the leek into two pieces.
- Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. You can either let the halves soak in a bowl of water, swishing them about a few times. Or, simply rinse them under running water making sure the water gets between the layers.
- Pat the leeks dry, then chop as desired for your recipe. Here, they are chopped into half-moons, a common preparation for soups.
- Look for bright-colored leeks that are small or medium in size.
- Small leeks are in-season midsummer through late fall. Medium and large leeks can be found year-round.
- Avoid leeks which seem wilted.
- If possible, select leeks with untrimmed tops and bottoms.
- Leeks are an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin phenolic flavonoid antioxidants. These compounds protect eyes from age-related macular disease by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays. Sunscreen for your eyes! Most dark greens are also rich sources of these vision-protecting compounds.
- Leeks, like garlic and onions, belong to the Allium family of vegetables. As such, leeks contain many of the same beneficial compounds found in these well-researched, health-promoting vegetables.
- Leeks contain measurable amounts of naturally occuring oxalates. When oxalates become concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. Therefore, individuals with existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to discuss leak consumption first with their practitioner.
- Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia
- Waters, Alice. Chez Panisse Vegetables
- Linus Pauling Micronutrient Center – Carotenoids
- World’s Healthiest Foods – Leeks
Are you a fan of leeks? How do you use them in your cooking? Please leave a comment below!