In Season: Leeks

Leeks are part of the Allium family, similar to onions and garlic, and are long cylinders of bundled leaf sheaths, otherwise known as the stem or stalk. Summer leeks are the most common variety, but the overwintering leeks tend to have a fuller and stronger flavor. Leeks are ready to eat once the stalk has reached one inch in diameter. The flavonoid kaempferol within leeks is known to protect blood vessel linings from damage, and the folate throughout the entire plant supports the cardiovascular system.

>>Baked Leeks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 9x12 inch baking pan. Melt two tablespoons of butter over low heat. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups skim milk and 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese until melted. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat. Arrange four medium leeks, halved lengthwise, in single layer in prepared pan and cover with cheese sauce. Bake for 30 minutes until leeks are tender and sauce is bubbly.

>>Braised Leeks and Mustard Greens

Trim four leeks to 1 1/2 inches on green leaves. Slice leeks in half lengthwise. Melt two tablespoons unsalted butter in skillet over medium heat and cook and stir in leeks, about five minutes. Stir in two cups of washed, dried, and chopped mustard greens, and pour in enough chicken broth to just cover the bottom of the pan and prevent leeks from browning—about two tablespoons. Cook until mustard greens turn bright green and start to soften. Salt and ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

>>Leek and Onion Vegetable Dip

In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 (one ounce packaged) dry onion soup mix, 1 (1.8 ounce) package of dry leek soup mix, 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, and 1 (16-ounce) container sour cream. Allow mixture to chill in the refrigerator at least one hour before serving.