Random Ingredient: Leeks

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What is it? Leeks are related to shallots, onions and garlic, but they have a milder, sweeter taste. Instead of forming bulbs at the base of the plant like the others, leeks form long, thick stalks with heavy green outer layers that extend toward the top. They look like giant, mutated versions of green onions and actually have an even milder taste despite their mammoth size. Think of them as the Andre the Giant of the onion world; large and looming on the outside, but sweet and mild on the inside.

The outer dark green layers toward the top of the leek are not good to eat. They are very fibrous and tough, which makes them difficult to cook to a soft, edible consistency. The white, lighter parts at the bottom of the plant are the most tender.

Leeks are very nutritious and can help in lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and raise HDL (the good stuff) levels as well as reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, stabilizing blood sugar and providing a good source of manganese and vitamin C.

What is it used for? Leeks are used in the traditionally cold, thick soup called vichyssoise, boiled and eaten as a side dish, sautéed and used in place of onions, garlic or shallots (or in addition to), or used raw in salads. There are truly endless uses for leeks, because their versatility extends further than even that of onions and garlic, because they can be used for much more than just flavoring for a dish.

Where can you buy it in Houston? Any grocery store. Even the Foodarama on Antoine carries them.

Recipe:Buttered Leeks and Radishes: Courtesy of Dr. Miggy's Blog

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