What are leeks, and how can you cook with them? Read here to discover why leeks make an excellent ingredient in your recipes.
How often do you vary the recipes you cook at home? Maybe you're the type of person who prefers to stick to a few dishes you know well. Still, one way you can help kick things up a notch in your kitchen is by discovering new ingredients.
What kind of ingredients should you explore as you expand your grocery list? We've got one in mind that we think you should try if you haven't before – leeks. This vegetable is so well-loved that it’s become a national symbol in some places. In case you were wondering, that's Wales, and the Welsh people even wear leeks to celebrate a holiday in March.
First, we'll give you the inside scoop on this plant so you feel familiar with it. Then, we'll show you our favorite recipes that incorporate the savory flavor of leeks.
What Do Leeks Taste Like?
The first thing you'll want to know about this light green plant is that it's a part of the allium family. That means it's related to onions, garlic, shallots, and chives, and they can add incredible flavor to your dishes. They're similar to other alliums in taste, with a salty-sweet onion flavor.
Leeks go well with cheese like parmesan, and they’re frequently paired with potatoes, especially in the classic French dish, vichyssoise.
If you're trying to decide between adding leeks or onions to your dish, you might want to consider the strength of the flavor. Leeks tend to be milder in nature, while onions can be bolder and sharper. If you want to add a little flavor to your dish, leeks are the way to go.
How To Prepare Leeks
First, you have to clean leeks. Since they are grown with dirt piled around them, that dirt makes its way into all the little nooks and crannies in the vegetable.
Start by rinsing your whole leeks under running water. Then, grab a cutting board, cut off the root end, and slice them lengthwise. Slice off the dark green parts at the end of the leeks, as these are tough and tricky to work with. Then, chop the remaining white parts and light green parts — these are the edible parts.
Soak your chopped leeks in a bowl of cold water to help speed the removal of dirt. Finish by rinsing them in a colander.
How Can You Cook Leeks?
There are several ways you can enjoy leeks with your meals! You can explore a few of the main ways to see which you might like to try first.
- Try leeks as a side dish. Leeks can make a fantastic complement to your main course. However, you can also relish the taste of leeks on their own as a side dish. Try grilling or roasting them if you'd like to try them on the side. Sauteed leeks are also delicious.
- Use leeks to build flavor. Let's say you want to prepare a delicious soup or stew that boasts rich flavors. Just like you might add green onions or garlic to the mix, you can toss cut leeks into potato leek soup for bolder flavors that warm your soul with every sip.
- Mix them into casseroles. Pureed leeks have a mild flavor that will augment many dishes.
- Add them as a garnish. If you don't want to add leeks to your soup, you can finely chop them and add them to your meal as a garnish.
A quick note for cutting leeks: Whenever you use leeks in a recipe, you'll want to remove the dark green leaves, stringy portions, and green tops of the stalks. From there, you'll also want to cut them in half lengthwise so they're more manageable. Next, follow your recipe of choice to see whether you should leave your leeks in stalks or finely chop them.
How Are Leeks Different From Scallions?
Leeks and scallions have a lot in common. They're in the same onion family, so they share a lot of flavor notes.
Still, leeks differ from scallions in their taste and size. For example, leeks tend to taste more garlicky than scallions. They're also larger than scallions, and you can use them in your recipes differently.
Different Types of Leeks
Are all leeks the same? As it turns out, there are several varieties of leeks you might select to add some boldness to your dish. Here are the three main types of leeks you might come across:
- Early-season leeks: This kind of leek is ready for harvest sooner than others. Once you plant this variety, you'll be able to harvest it after 50-100 days. These leeks might be ready sooner, but they're also usually smaller and have a more mild flavor. Keeping these factors in mind can help you select the leeks that work for you.
- Late-season leeks: While you can harvest early-season leeks as soon as fifty days after planting them, late-season leeks take around 120-180 days to be ready for harvesting. These grow wider stalks and tend to taste more robust than early-season leeks. If you feel like waiting, this plant is patient. You can wait to harvest it up to 210 days after planting it.
- Wild leeks: As you might have guessed, wild leeks occur in the wild without purposeful planting. These leeks go by several names, including ramps, American flag leeks, and ramsons. You'd usually only eat the below-ground portion of leeks, but many people enjoy eating the above-ground part of wild leeks, too.
How To Store Leeks
After buying your leeks, you'll most likely need to store them before cooking with them, unless you're preparing dinner right away.
When you're storing your leeks, you'll want to keep their smell in mind. Although this plant adds tasty flavor to cooked dishes, it can also emit a scent that the other foods in your refrigerator absorb, which may not be pleasant. To avoid this, store your leeks in plastic or glass tupperware before placing them in the fridge.
Ten Easy Leek Recipes for Your Dinner Menu
Are you ready to cook with leeks? Using this ingredient in your meals can help you explore and appreciate new textures and flavors. Let's check out a few of our favorite recipes that include this tasty allium.
Leek and Ricotta Lasagna
There's something utterly delicious about a perfectly-layered lasagna. Our lasagna recipe includes ricotta cheese and leeks to boost the flavor throughout. You'll love how this simple recipe results in a dish your whole household can enjoy.
Smoked Salmon and Leek Pappardelle
Sometimes, a fancy pasta is precisely what's needed. This salmon and leek pappardelle recipe is smoky and creamy, putting a new spin on what you expect from pasta. You won't be disappointed!
Leek and Mushroom Pot Pie
When's the last time you enjoyed a comforting oven-baked pot pie? If it's been a while, you can take this leek and mushroom pot pie recipe for a spin to see how you like it. Between the cheesy goodness and flaky crust, we can guess you'll like what you taste.
Leek and Feta Quiche
If you're looking for a unique dish you can make for friends, this leek quiche is a terrific option. The buttery crust, feta, eggs, and leeks make a great team. Be prepared for your guests to ask for the recipe.
Scallop and Leek Risotto
Need something easy you can prepare for dinner? This scallop and leek risotto is ready in around thirty minutes, so you don't have to spend all your time in the kitchen.
Creamy Leek and Smoked Salmon Soup
What's your go-to soup? There's nothing wrong with chicken noodle soup and baked potato soup. But once in a while, it's a good idea to throw a new recipe into the mix. This creamy leek and smoked salmon soup is fancy, filling, easy, and looks terrific in the bowl. Some might say it's the total package.
One-Pan Chicken and Veggies
Opting for one-pan meals can help simplify your dinners when you're in a rush. This homestyle meal combines chicken and veggies with flavorful leeks. You can spend six minutes preparing the ingredients, and then you can let your oven take over the rest.
Leek, Mushroom, and Feta Spring Rolls
Perhaps you're preparing to throw a party for a friend's birthday soon, and you want to come up with the perfect appetizer to serve. These leek, mushroom, and feta spring rolls make an A+ finger food.
Toasted Cheese and Leek Sandwich
No one is too old for a gooey grilled cheese. This recipe transforms everything you thought you knew about grilled cheese and transforms this sandwich into a high-quality dish.
Brie and Caramelized Leek Quiche
Quiches are perfect for fancy breakfasts, brunches, and dinners. This caramelized leek quiche adds brie cheese and salty-sweet caramelized leeks into the equation. It's easier than you think to prepare this mouth-watering dish!
One More Tip for Cooking With Leeks
Cooking with a new ingredient doesn't have to be overwhelming! When you let us at Jow support your cooking adventures, you'll be prepared with recipes that are tasty and manageable. Whether you need support expanding your menu or assistance with grocery list-making and shopping, we're happy to help.
Whether you want to cook more dinners at home or you want to sharpen your baking skills, we've got the simple recipes that can make you a success in the kitchen.