Leeks, a relative of the onion, leeks have recently gained popularity in the United States and have a bit more of a high-scale image than their cousin the onion.
The white and pale green portion of the leek is most commonly used, though the tough outer leaves can be blanched and then used to wrap vegetable or meat dishes or reserved for making vegetable stock (the roots are also great for stock making).
Leeks can be braised, steamed, or sautéed. Cook them just until they are crisp-tender. Overcooking will make leeks mushy and unappetizing. A simple and delicious way to serve leeks all on their own is to cut them into rounds and cook them on the stove top slowly over low heat with plenty of butter. Leeks go very well in soups. They can also be cut into small pieces and added to salads or quiches.
Leeks can be used as a substitute for onions in most recipes, though their flavor is more subtle and sweeter than most types of onions.
Lemon, basil, sage, thyme, and mustard pair well with the flavor of leeks.
Store fresh leeks whole and unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about a week. Be sure to keep away from odor absorbing foods in the fridge.
To prepare a leek for cooking, first trim off the root end and most of the tough dark green leaves, leaving about an inch of light green near the white stalk. Next, cut the stalk in half length wise.
Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water and swirl the leeks through the water to remove any dirt. You might have to do that a couple of times. As leeks grow, dirt gets trapped between the layers of leaves, so you’ll need to be sure they are washed well.
If you’re going to want to use the leeks chopped into smaller pieces, you could cut them up first, and then place the pieces in a colander in a sink full of water. Swirl with your hand a few times. The leek pieces will float to the top and the dirt will sink to the bottom.