This New Food Friday, we’re looking at another vegetable: leeks. Leeks are a member of the allium family (which also includes onions, garlic and shallots) that look a bit like overgrown scallions, with a white bulb and long green tops. The white bulb and lighter green section is the part of the leek you’ll want to cook with. While edible, the dark green upper leaves can have a weird rubbery texture and I haven’t found a good recipe for using them. But don’t throw them away! Freeze them with other vegetable scraps, then make your own homemade stock.
While you probably don’t wash your onions or garlic before using them, leeks require a little special care. They often have sand or dirt trapped in between their layers, so you need to wash them carefully before using.
The first time I ever bought leeks was to make this mushroom, leek and tarragon pasta on Gordon Ramsay’s YouTube channel. Since this was my first exposure to the ingredient, I still wash my leeks the same way GR demonstrates in this video. I’ll explain below.
New Food Friday: Leeks
What it is: Leeks are members of the allium family with edible leaves.
What it tastes like: Leeks taste similar to onions and scallions, but milder.
Where and when to find it: Leeks are in season from late fall through spring. I can usually find them in the produce department near the scallions.
How to buy it: Look for sturdy green leaves (not wilted) on top and smooth, firm white on the root end.
How to store it: I store leeks loosely wrapped in the refrigerator (often on the bottom shelf–they’re typically too big to fit in the drawer!).
How to prepare it: You’ll need to wash the leek before using to remove any dirt or sand inside. Either cut the leek into the desired shape first, and then rinse the pieces thoroughly, or follow the method below:
- Remove the dark green leaves on the top of the leek.
- Cut the white and light green portion lengthwise into quarters, leaving the leaves attached just above the root.
- Spread the leaves apart under running water to remove dirt or sand.
- Shake off or dry the leek, then slice.
What I did with it: The pasta recipe above is one of my favorite uses of leeks, but I’ve also used them in place of onions in potato soup, chicken pot pie and risotto. And I always save the tops to make stock!
The verdict: Leeks are a great way to shake up your cooking. Just about every way I’ve tried them has been a success!