I used to be afraid of leeks. I mean, they're not an onion, they're not a starch . . . what are they? I wasn't raised eating leeks. And quite honestly, I didn't used to have anything to do with veggies I wasn't raised eating. That includes artichokes, kale, arugula, turnips, parsnips, avocados (ok, I know, a fruit, but you don't see them in fruit salads, do you?), bok choi, broccoli rabe, escarole, and leeks. And, let me add here, I was raised in a veggie-eating family. When I was little, my parents grew potatoes and corn and all manner of things in the backyard.
A few years ago I went through a kind of exotic fruits and vegetables phase. I tried making all kinds of foods I'd never had before. I made jicama slaw. I got really into artichokes and avocados, and felt so enlightened. Then I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (because three different friends told me I would like it) and he wrote about eating local foods and eating like my grandmother, of all people! He had really convincing arguments about eating in a way that our earth could sustain. And so I went back to the seasonal, local foods from our area that were easily obtainable. And, hilariously, I re-embraced the Lancaster dishes I had scorned because they were all based on seasonal, local ingredients. Go grandma!
But I did decide that I needed to explore some of the vegetables I had not explored in my exotic phase. Vegetables that even my mom hadn't felt we needed to eat, like parsnips and turnips and leeks. Now I can honestly say that I have made parsnips blend right into a chicken soup, and I have put turnips in a root veggie bake. And I did buy a parsnip today at the rather limited spring farmer's market, left over from last year's harvest. However, I would call either of those unassuming vegetables--in the words of Elmo--a "sometimes food."
Leeks are another story. The only thing I knew leeks went in at first was potato soup. But someone told me they are also good in omelets. And then I figured out that they can go anywhere an onion can go (if cooked). And they add a little more flavor than an onion. So when my nursing daughter couldn't tolerate me eating garlic, I started cooking everything with leeks. The farmer's markets here were selling them into the winter. And so the question for me is no longer, "What can I do with a leek?" but "What can't I do with a leek?"
|The classic leek and potato combo--this time baked with just salt, pepper, & olive oil.|