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Cooking with Leeks

Leeks have a light and sweet onion flavor, and are often used as a substitute for onions in recipes. They are primarily used in soups and stews, but can also be cooked as a side dish, in which case, they should not be over-cooked. Over-cooking leeks can result in a slippery mess.

To prepare leeks for cooking, cut off the tough roots at the base. Wash the leek thoroughly with cold running water (through blanching and other growing processes dirt can lodge within the leaves and on the stem). Then slice leeks to desired thickness. Generally they are sliced across the grain for use in recipes. Push the rings apart and rinse them in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water, as dirt will frequently be found between the rings. The rings will float and, after stirring the rings about with a hand, the dirt will fall into the bottom of the bowl. Occasionally a recipe will call for a leek to be cut side-ways. In this case, slice with the grain and split the leek open with fingers. Separate the layers and rinse.

Leeks may be steamed, boiled, and even fried. If fried, be sure not to brown them as this seems to make them tough. Fry in butter and garlic, some cooks like to add ginger. Just before the leeks start to brown add a bit of chicken stock or even some soy sauce - if the leeks are to be included in a stir-fry.

The dark green leaves can be eaten as well as the white blanched stems. In fact the leafy part contains more nutrients than does the stem. This part is often chopped very thinly and added to soups, stock, or stews. Warning - it can be tough.

Leeks are sometimes used in salads or even to garnish a potato. To do this, slice the leeks very thin and sprinkle over the salad or a potato dressed in sour cream.

For those concocting their own recipes, leeks go well almost anywhere an onion might. They partner with the ever popular salt and pepper, also with sage, thyme, parsley, basil, lemon, garlic, rosemary, and other savory spices.

Leeks are featured in the recipes on the following two pages:

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