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When was the last time you had a leek? This versatile vegetable looks like green onion’s big brother, only with a flavour that’s a cross between an onion and a clove of garlic. Leeks are actually part of the allium family (along with chives, garlic, onion, and shallots) and pack a wallop of taste sensation. Biting into them raw and you’re rewarded with a sharp taste, knocking your tastebuds with a powerful punch. But when cooked like onions, leeks mellow down into a soft, almost sweet mouthful of flavour.
Nutritionally speaking, according to the Canadian Nutrient File, 100 grams of cooked leeks contains folate, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, fibre, lutein and antioxidants.
Leeks pair well with thyme, chives, and garlic as well as mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, eggs, salmon, chicken, bacon and cheese. They’re fabulous in slow-simmered roasts and soups, in side dishes, as the main attraction or as part of an ensemble recipe.
LET’S MAKE IT WITH LEEKS
How to Prepare Leeks: The bottom half, or what’s commonly referred to as the “white to light green part” in recipes, is the most tender, the dark green ends are usually used to flavour stock or are simply discarded.
Cleaning Leeks: Leeks carry a lot of dirt in the layers, so it’s crucial to rinse them carefully and thoroughly. If you’re using sliced leeks in a recipe, cut the leeks first and then place them in a colander and rinse well under cold water. You may need to drain and rinse a few times until the water runs clear.
If you’re halving your leeks, it’s easy to flush out any dirt by rinsing the cut halves.
Cooking Leeks: Leeks can be left whole, halved, or sliced. They can also be boiled, broiled, braised, fried, grilled, roasted, or steamed. If you are cooking whole leeks, the best cooking methods are braising, steaming or grilling. You should note, 1 lb. (450g) of leek is equal to 2 cups (500 mL) chopped or 1 cup (250 mL) cooked.
Leek and Potato Soup
An amazingly easy soup to make, it’s made with only a few ingredients, so the flavours compliment each other rather than compete. Although creamy, there is no cream added thanks to the potato. Recipe courtesy of OPMA ( Producemadesimple.ca )
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 – 1 onion)
4 cups (1L) sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3 large leeks)
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow or white potato, peeled, cut into even pieces
4 cups (1L) low-sodium vegetable broth
Garnish: Chopped green onion, grated cheese, croutons, crisp bacon, dollop of sour cream
In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion, leeks, potato and garlic. Lightly cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broth and bring to boil, then gently simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer half of soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer blended soup to a large bowl and repeat with remaining unblended soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with garnish of choice.
Braised Leeks with Burrata
Leeks release a delicious sweetness upon braising in this simple yet indulgent dish; It serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main dish. Recipe courtesy of Produce Made Simple Ambassador Susan from Rhubarbandcod.com .
2 leeks, dark green section and roots removed
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) frozen peas
1 ball of fresh burrata cheese
Fresh mint leaves for sprinkling
Slice leeks into 1-1/2 (4 cm) inch chunks. Place leeks in a colander and rinse thoroughly in cold water.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks cut-side-down and brown on both sides. Pour wine over leeks and add butter and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until leeks are tender. Pour peas into skillet and continue to cook until tender, about 2 minutes more.
Transfer leeks and peas to a plate using a slotted spoon and place ball of burrata on top. Sprinkle with mint leaves and serve immediately with crusty bread or crostini.
Mushroom, Leek and Gruyere Tart
A wonderfully flavourful mouthful perfect as a snack, binge-watch dish or Sunday afternoon brunch. Recipe courtesy of Charmian from The Messy Bakery for Mushrooms.ca .
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, defrosted
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise and slivered into half moons
16 oz. (450g) cremini or Portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Ground black pepper (optional)
3 oz. grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 425F (220C). On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a rimmed baking sheet, roll puff pastry sheet out to a 10-inch (24 cm) square. Using a sharp knife, gently score pastry an inch inside outer edge, being careful not to cut all way through. Place parchment with scored pastry onto a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare filling.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. When it bubbles, grate garlic on a microplane into pan. Add thyme. Cook gently for 1 minute. Add leeks and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft but not weeping juices. Place mushroom filling into a strainer and let drain for a few minutes.
Spoon mushroom filling onto pastry, being careful to keep inside score marks. Add a grinding of fresh black pepper, if using. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove tart from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted and pastry is golden brown. Serve while hot.
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