Leeks are a little known but very flavorful cousin of the onion that deserve a place in modern cooking. With a mild flavor that lends itself well to all kinds of recipes, this delicious and healthy vegetable offers a great deal of nutrition. Although they appear to be a larger version of the green onion, a green onion actually has a much stronger taste. Leeks are a great choice for the onion flavor without overwhelming other elements of your food.
The Nutrition in Leeks
Leeks are a fantastic source of Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, which is essential to brain and eye development in young children. They are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. Leeks are low in fat and sugar, and provide dietary fiber.
How to Cook with Leeks
Unlike other members of the onion family, leeks aren’t particularly well suited to eating raw, and are usually cooked and used to flavor a variety of dishes.
Because leeks grow up out of the ground and have many layers like onions, they tend to collect a good bit of dirt and sand in between the layers. One of the first things you will need to do with fresh leeks is to wash them thoroughly. Make sure to get through all the layers to remove all of the dirt. The best way to do this is to cut through the middle of the leek and fan it out under running water. Discard the dark green portion of the leek and cook with the white and light green parts for the best flavor.
There are many soups that use leeks, some of them quite famous, including cock-a-leekie soup, a Scottish dish made from leeks and chicken stock, and the French-named vichyssoise. Although this leek and potato soup is often thought to be of French descent, it likely has its roots in America, and may be one of the best known uses for leeks. As one of the national symbols of Wales, the leek appears in a number of traditional Welsh dishes as well.
You can use leeks in just about any recipe where you might use onions, but be aware that it will change the taste. This can be a good thing if your kids aren’t a fan of the strong taste of onions, adding the nutrition without the overpowering flavor. Leeks are also a great choice for a lightly flavored dip for vegetables or even chips (go for vegetables for a healthier choice, though!).
Add leeks to stews, or throw some into the slow cooker with a roast or chicken. They are also a great addition to quiche, again offering a more mellow flavor than onions. Consider mixing leeks in with mashed potatoes to add a kick of savory flavor as well as extra nutrition. They are an excellent substitution for green onions (also known as scallions) or chives.
With a delicious mild flavor that is kid-friendly and a good dose of important vitamins and minerals, leeks are a great addition to your cooking routine, and will add new flavor to old dishes. Easy to find in most supermarkets, be sure to give leeks a try the next time you are looking to add a little more taste and a lot more nutrition to simple meals like soups or stews.