Leeks are a member of the onion family. They are native to the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The biggest producers of leeks are the following countries: Indonesia, Turkey, France, the Republic of Korea, and Belgium. Leeks are one of the more expensive onion varieties you’ll find at the market.
Leeks resemble scallions (or green onions), but they’re a lot larger. And their mild flavor and ease of preparation make the vegetable a favorite addition to soups, casseroles, and white meat entrées, as well as a simple side dish when gently sautéed. Look for the best leeks of the year starting in autumn and enjoy them all the way through spring.
Like onions and other members of the Allium family, leeks are a bulbous vegetable with white flesh and leafy green tops. The bulb, however, is not round, but just slightly larger than the stem nearest the roots. The more rounded the bulb, the older the leek.
Leeks can be boiled, braised, fried, or roasted. They can be treated like onions, either sautéed in butter or olive oil or caramelized.
Sautéed Spinach and Leeks
The original recipe can be found here.
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (coconut oil or butter can also be used here. If you want an oil-free, vegan solution, sauté in vegetable broth)
- 1 medium leek, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced (see leek preparation directions below)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 8 oz. bag fresh spinach
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
To prepare leeks, trim off the root end. I leave the green part but some people prefer to remove the green part. Thinly slice the leek into rings and place in a bowl of cold water. Toss them around in the water to remove any sand, dirt, and grit from the inner layers. Let them sit for at least 2-3 minutes. Gently lift the leeks from the bowl of water and place them in a colander. This way you leave behind the dirty water and any grit that’s fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Now they are ready to use.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat.
- Add leeks and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
- Add garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add spinach and stir for 2-3 minutes until spinach is mostly wilted.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using, and serve hot.
Pappardelle Pasta with Leeks and Spinach
Click here for the original recipe.
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 leeks
- 3 clove garlic
- 3 sprig thyme
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz. baby spinach
- 8 oz. pappardelle or fettuccine
- 2 tbsp. butter
- In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Stir in leeks, garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring often, until leeks are translucent, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add wine, cover, and simmer for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Remove thyme stems. Add the cream, cover, and simmer, about 15 minutes, until leeks are very tender and cream has thickened slightly.
- Fold in spinach, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until al dente, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer pasta to leek mixture and toss to coat. Fold in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide pasta among 4 shallow bowls, shave Parmesan on top and serve immediately.
Chickpeas with Leeks and Lemon
Click here for the original recipe.
- 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 branch of fresh rosemary
- 4 leeks
- kosher salt
- 2 c. cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 1/2 lemon
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary over medium heat. Once the garlic turns fragrant and the rosemary begins to sizzle, remove the rosemary, setting it aside for later. (for an oil-free, vegan option use vegetable broth instead of olive oil)
- Add the leeks to the pan, along with a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and sweet but still brightly green, around 5-8 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas, and continue to cook, turning the beans in the oil, for 5 minutes more, at which point the chickpeas should have darkened slightly in color.
- Using a microplane or zester, add a few scrapes of lemon zest to the pan, along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir gently to combine. Check for seasoning, adding more juice, zest, or salt as needed. Return the reserved rosemary sprigs to the pan, and enjoy warm or at room temperature.