Google+ Followers

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Leeks

Leeks:

Leeks belong to the same family (Allium) as onion and garlic.  The leek, rather that forming a bulb like an onion, produces a long cylinder of bundled sheaths.  The edible portions of the leeks are the white base of the leaf (above the roots and stem base).  It's about 2/3 of the stalk.  The dark green portion, about 1/3 , is usually discarded due to its tough texture.   Leeks  are generally twelve inches long and one to two inches in diameter.  Its flavor is more delicate and sweeter than the onion. 

 Thought to be native to Central Asia leeks have been cultivated in this region and in Europe for thousands of years.  Leeks are easy to grow and tolerate standing in the field for a an extended harvest. Leek were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their beneficial effect on the throat.  Roman Emperor Nero ate leeks every day to strengthen his throat.   The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales worn along with the daffodil. 

Leeks are boiled, which turns them soft with a mild taste, fried, which leaves them crunchier and preserves their taste, and eaten raw, which can be in salads, although they can sometimes be tough.   Leeks are typically chopped into slices 5 - 10 mm thick.  The slices have a tendency to fall apart though due to their layered structure.

My first exposure to leeks was in my grandpa's store.   They were usually sold as part of a package called "soup greens".   Soup greens would typically include a leek, an onion, a turnip,  a carrot, a parsnip, and a couple of sprigs of parsley.   When a customer would ask for soup greens I would need to get some help to get them together.   I always loved soup even to this very day.

Leeks along with onions and garlic have a unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur containing nutrients.  These members of the "allium" family should sit for at least five minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health promoting qualities.   Leeks also contain concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols which play a direct role in protecting our blood vessels and blood cells from oxidative damage,   Leeks are an excellent source of vitamins K and A, a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, folates, vitamin B6 and iron. 

Select firm and straight leeks with dark green leaves and white necks.  Avoid leeks that are yellowed, wilted or have bulbs that have cracks and bruises.   Generally, large leeks are more fibrous.  Select those with a diameter of one to one and a half inches or less.   Leeks are available throughout the year with a greater supply from fall to early spring.   Store leeks for one to two weeks in the refrigerator unwashed and untrimmed in a plastic bag.   Leeks can be sandy.  To wash, remove the outer layer, trim the base, and make a cut in the middle of the white stalk towards the green tip leaving the bottom intact.   Rinse well under cold running water and then drain.     

So......... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

 

Simple but good:   

Sautéed Greens

1 cup sliced leeks (about one leek)
4 cups chopped kale
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
3 medium cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in  skillet and sauté leeks over medium heat for about 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of broth and kale.
Cover and simmer on low heat for about 7 - 8 minutes stirring occasionally.
Toss with pressed garlic, lemon juice, remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste