Friday, September 16, 2016

Slice and Dice: Leeks

When I was young, I loved to watch my mom cook. Nearly every dish she created (sans a recipe because that’s how she rolls) called for a chopped onion. I looked on, enamored and petrified, as she prepped the bulbous veggie in the palm of her hand. It was one of many Game-of-Thrones-ish feats she performed, along with cracking open coconuts and hacking apart chickens with her trusty cleaver.

I start many savory dishes with chopped onions too. So I guess you could say the mango doesn’t fall far from the tree. (Soup? Check. Spaghetti and meatballs? Check. Spicy Fried Beef? Check.) But after culinary school, I expanded my repertoire to encompass other alliums including leeks.

While onions are feisty, leeks offer a delicate onion-like undertow. I use them to add a bit of umpf to soup, pizza, and fritatas.

How to Select and Store Leeks

Select leeks that are firm and straight with tight-fitted green-tipped leaves. Although bigger often seems better, large leeks tend to be fibrous, so opt for those that have a circumference of 1 1/2 inches or less. Store leeks for up to a week in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in paper towels. Trim and wash them just before cooking. 

How to Slice and Wash Leeks

Like many members of the onion family, leeks have tight-fitted layers. Dirt and grit often settle into their folds, so it’s important to wash leeks thoroughly before using them.

Fill a large bowl with water. Cut off the green tops, which are tough and unyielding. Compost them or save them for stock.

Cut off the root end. 

Slice the stalk in half lengthwise. 

One at a time, place each half of the stalk on a cutting board with the cut side down and thinly slice it width wise into half-moons.

Place the sliced leeks in the bowl of water and swish them around to help remove any dirt.

After a few minutes, carefully lift the pieces out of the water without disturbing the dirt that sunk to the bottom of the bowl. 

Wrap the sliced leeks in a clean kitchen towel and press and scrunch gently to dry. 

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