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Leeks

If there's such a thing as a refined vegetable, it may just be the leek. An allium (onion family), leeks gently but distinctly flavor a dish without overpowering it. They're a lovely plant, with white, crisp stalks topped by green leaves. They grow tidily and fairly easily—though they do require a good washing after harvest, because they can trap dirt between the sheaves. Slice leeks in salads, stir fries, and frittatas. You can even serve them as a side dish or as the focus of a cold soup. Bigger isn't better when it comes to leeks, by the way. Smaller leeks are more tender and sweet than larger leeks.

Flavor Profile

  • Similar but sweeter, more delicate flavor than onions or shallots
  • Wild leeks ("ramps") have a stronger flavor than cultivated leeks
  • Overwintering leeks are stronger tasting than summer leeks

How to Choose a Good One

  • Choose firm, straight, crisp leeks
  • Necks should be white
  • Leaves should be dark green
  • Bulbs should have no cracks or bruises
  • Very large leeks are more fibrous. Look for leeks that are less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
  • Store in refrigerator, unwashed and untrimmed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, for a week or two
  • To prepare, cut off the root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse well between the leek sections

Peak Season

  • Spring and fall (when they're most tender and small)

Nutritional Highlights

  • Good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium
  • Very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese

General Use

  • Can serve boiled, braised, puréed, steamed, stewed, fried, or served raw
  • Salads
  • Vichyssoise (cold leek and potato soup)
  • Side dish
  • Frittatas or omelets
  • Bouquet garni
  • Stir fries
  • Soups and stews
  • Pasta dishes

Complements

  • Fennel, thyme, mustard seed, parsley
  • Eggs
  • Salmon and other fish
  • Bacon
  • Lemon juice, béchamel sauce, Hollandaise sauce, mustard, olive oil, vinaigrette
  • Bread crumbs
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cream
  • Peas, potatoes, beets, tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Pasta