Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Leek

I love me some leeks. This strange and unusual vegetable is really the secret weapon in all of my cooking. When you taste that soft supple flavor, nine times out of 10 it is a leek. Leeks are perfect for fish, chicken, and soup. You can shred them, dice them, use them as wraps, or cut them into circles!

Sweeter than onions, leeks resemble large scallions. They are extremely subtle in how they add flavor to a dish, making them truly versatile vegetables. Since they belong to the same family of foods as onions and garlic – the Alliaceae family – they also share some of the same health benefits. In addition to lowering bad cholesterol, and raising good cholesterol, leeks may even reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Leeks are considered the national emblem of Wales, but the vegetable actually dates back to early Roman times. These days, you can find them just about anywhere, though they are more prevalent during the fall, winter and early spring months. They are very perishable, so use them as soon as you purchase them. Even in the refrigerator, leeks stay fresh for only up to two days.

Happy Cooking! Mary

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