Like onions, to which they are related, leeks are most frequently used
to add flavour to various dishes, particularly stews and soups (the
best known is vichyssoise, the classic cold potato and leek soup from
France). Leeks have a milder and sweeter flavour than onions and a crunchy
texture when cooked, making them a delicious side dish served on their
own. Leeks are surprisingly nutritious, supplying more vitamins and
minerals than an equal sized serving of onions or spring onions (scallions).
Leeks resemble overgrown scallions, but are usually displayed in bunches
of three or four but sometimes they are sold separately. Unfortunately,
many markets sell bunches of leeks of wildly different sizes, making
it difficult if you plan to cook the leeks whole.
the white ends of scallions may be bulbous, those of leeks should be
relatively straight and not exceed 1 1/2" in diameter, larger leeks
may be a little stringy, and far less tasty. Check each leek at both
ends: The leaf tops should be fresh and green, while the white root
end should show a firmly attached fringe of rootlets and several inches
of unblemished skin, which will give very slightly to pressure. Avoid
leeks with obvious signs of age or mishandling, such as wilted or torn
greens or split or oversized bulbs.
markets also carry baby leeks, which can be pencil thin and are more
tender than medium-sized leeks, try wrapping these in parma ham, drizzle
with a cheese sauce and grill for a few minutes.
Leeks will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Store them loosely
wrapped in plastic, this not only helps them retain moisture, but also
prevents their odour from spreading to other foods. Trim the leeks only
when ready to prepare them.
Cooked and served whole, leeks make an excellent side dish or appetiser.
They can also be chopped or sliced for use as an ingredient in other
often require careful cleaning as soil and grit collects between the
layers of the broad overlapping leaves. Remove any withered or toughened
outer leaves. Trim off the darkest portion of the green tops (the whole
leek is edible, but the darker green portions have a stronger, less
pleasant flavour). Trim the rootlets at the base.
If cooking leeks whole, insert a knife
about 1" below where the leaves start to turn green and slice lengthwise
to the top end. Then roll the leek a quarter turn and make a second
lengthwise slit perpendicular to the first. Fan the leaves apart and
wash under cool running water. Dirt collects on a leek where it rose
above the soil and starts to turn green.
Cut leeks as directed in the recipe
and place the leeks in a bowl of lukewarm water. Swish the leeks around
in the water and scoop them out. The dirt will settle to the bottom
of the bowl.
can quickly overcook, which turns them soft and slimy. Also, they continue
to cook after they are removed from heat (unless you plunge them into
cold water). If serving them hot, cook until just barely tender, you
should be able to slightly pierce the base with the point of a sharp
knife. Since cooking times vary, depending upon the size and age of
the leeks, you will need to keep testing to see if they are cooked..