Five Ways to Eat Leeks

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All the hubbub about Wikileaks has me thinking about another kind of dish from an underground source...leeks!

When my father-in-law sent us home from Thanksgiving with a bag full of fresh leeks from his garden, I thanked him (diplomatically, of course), but was secretly befuddled. Having seen leeks only in restaurant dishes, I'd assumed they were something smaller, closer to scallions. These were white cylinders nearly as wide as soda cans, lopped off at the top as they grew greener.

After a bit of online research, I learned that late-harvested leeks like the ones I got are bigger than spring ones, with a stronger flavor that's still milder than most onions. These bulbous vegetables have been called "the poor man's asparagus" in France, but in Wales, people wear leeks (yes, wear them!) as a treasured national symbol. Ancient Egyptians and Romans apparently loved leeks, too.

Leeks can be cooked in many different ways. A few suggestions:

1) Potato-leek soup. A classic, easy-to-prepare winter comfort food. I made mine without a recipe, first sauteeing some chopped leeks and butter in a saucepan for about 10 minutes, then adding chopped potatoes and broth to simmer for about 20 minutes (until soft), and pureeing it with an immersion blender. I added some plain yogurt, creme fraiche and rosemary for a richer taste and texture, and crumbled a bit of blue cheese on top before serving. Yum. For a more precise recipe, see Pinch My Salt. Simply Recipes also has a creamless version with a kick, and NPR's The Splendid Table offers several variations on Julia Child's classic leek and potato soup recipe.

2) Risotto. I'm a little addicted to making risotto, as my husband, Charles, can attest. Cold weather only makes me crave it more. But at least my repertoire is expanding! This caramelized leek risotto from Daily Unadventures in Cooking is phenomenal. Cauliflower or butternut squash would be tasty additions, and if Charles didn't hate mushrooms, I'd also be trying The Kitchn's mushroom and leek risotto. (That blog also has a helpful explanation of how to clean leeks.)

3) Latkes. Add another one to Jess's list of not-so-orthodox latkes! One of my favorite blogs, Food & Style, recently featured an enticing butternut squash and leek latke recipe, although carnivores may prefer these leek and beef latkes. Along the same lines, WGBH's The Daily Dish has a recipe for shredded potato cakes with leeks and cheese.

4) Mac & Cheese. Just when I thought homemade macaroni and cheese couldn't get any did. Try this recipe from Food & Wine, which the Capital Spice bloggers can testify to.

5) Bread Pudding. Smitten Kitchen wins the prize for most creative use of leeks with this Leek Bread Pudding recipe adapted from the Ad Hoc cookbook. Doesn't that look great?

Also, a recipe to keep in mind for spring—Martha Rose Shulman's grilled leeks with romesco sauce make me dream of warmer weather.

Do you like leeks? How do you use them?

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