Leeks are members of the allium family (which includes onions, garlic, shallots, and others). Leeks have a milder flavor than onions, and sweeten as they cook. Leeks are native to the Mediterranean. They are available from mid-summer to late fall, and sometimes into winter.
Refrigerate unwashed leeks with roots attached for up to 2 weeks. The leeks can be wrapped in plastic to avoid spreading aromas in the fridge.
To clean, remove green tops to within 2 inches of the white section of the leek. Wash thoroughly to remove dirt between layers. Eat raw or in salads, steam, sauté with other veggies, or use in soups, casseroles, egg dishes, mashed potatoes, etc.
Pureed Potato Soup with Leeks
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
3 medium potatoes, any type, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and sliced into thin rings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart vegetable stock or water, preferably warmed
Put butter or oil in a large saucepan or casserole over medium heat. When butter melts or oil is hot, add the vegetables. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock or water and cook until vegetables are very tender (approximately 20 minutes). Puree the soup in a blender and return to the pot (or use an immersion blender). Stir in ½-1 cup cream, sour cream, or yogurt, and reheat gently (do not allow to boil if you use yogurt). Add salt and pepper as needed, garnish with minced chives (optional), and serve.
(Original recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.)
Potato, Leek, Carrot and Cabbage Soup
4-5 medium sized leeks, sliced and rinsed thoroughly (use only the white and light green portion, cut off the dark green)
½ of a large head of cabbage (not red), chopped and rinsed
1 ½ cups peeled carrots, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
1 ¾ lbs. of potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into ½ inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dry
1 teaspoon fresh chives (optional)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Stir in leeks, garlic and cabbage. Cover and cook until tender (15-20 minutes). (The process of sweating the leeks before liquid is added is an important part of the recipe. The leeks and cabbage will cook down substantially.) Stir in broth, potatoes, carrots, thyme, chives, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes and carrots are tender (about 20 minutes). Mash some potatoes against the side of the pot and mix in to thicken the soup. Remove and discard bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Original recipe here.)