Friday, September 28, 2007

Spotlight On Produce: Leeks

Since I live in a large city and have several grocery stores to choose from, the chains tend to try and outdo each other with what they can offer, as to draw customers away from that other store. One store always has a hot dog and soda stand operating out front; another boasts a coffee shop, a bank and a dry cleaner inside. Most of the extras aren't thing I care about, but I have benefited from the expanded organic choices and a better variety of produce. One of my personal goals for this year was to try new foods, so this week I chose leeks.

Leeks are a root vegetable related to onions, shallots and scallions. In appearance, they look like overgrown scallions, with a small, white bulb and green leaves. In taste, they are sweeter and milder than onions, so they are perfect for adding a subtle taste to recipes without overwhelming the other flavors.

Leeks are a very good source of manganese and a good source of vitamin C, iron, folate and vitamin B6. Leeks have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol.

When buying leeks, look for firm, white bulbs with straight, dark green leaves. and straight with dark green leaves and white necks. Leeks are available throughout the year, although they are in greater supply from the fall through the early part of spring. Fresh leeks will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Cooked leeks are highly perishable and should be consumed within a day or two.

Try sauteing chopped leeks in garlic and oil for a healthy side dish. Chop them and add to soups and stews and omelets for extra flavor.

What are some of your favorite ways to cook with leeks?


Jen said...

I love to use Leeks in a Creamy Potato Soup recipe of mine. If you want it I can send it to you.

Jen said...

Sounds delicious! I'd love to have it!

Jen said...

Rustic Potato-Leek Soup
4 pounds leeks (rinsed and and chopped into 1 inch pieces. Use only white and 3 inches of light green portion)
4 tb. butter, unsalted
1 tb. Wondra Flour, or Flour
5 cups chicken stock, or canned broth
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. red potatoes chopped

Heat the butter and I usually add some chopped bacon into a large stockpot (I love my Le Creuset pan for this), until melted and foaming. Stir in leeks and increase heat and cover for 15-20 minutes, but do not brown the leeks.

Sprinkle flour over the leeks and coat evenly until it dissolves.

Increase the heat and pour in the stock, whisking continually. Add the bay leaf, pototoes and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

There are 2 variations of this soup that I haven't tried, one adds Kielbasa, and the other White Beans to this soup.

*This recipe is from a cookbook called "The Best Recipe Soups and Stews" by Cooks Illustrated.

I haven't made this since last winter, and it is really good! Hope you try it. Jen

Jen said...

You know what? I think I have also added cream or milk at the end to make it more of a "creamy" soup recipe as well. It is very good that way.