Leeks are related to onions and garlic, members of the Allium family. Alliums, besides providing a critical culinary role, also have a long "medicinal" history for humans from Native Americans, to Greeks and Egyptians, to the Welsh, and so forth. Perhaps they were the medicine Hippocrates was speaking of when he said let medicine be your food and your food your medicine. They are antibacterial, performance enhancing according to early Greek Olympians, anti-cancer, anti-viral, good for your arteries and the list seems to go on and on.
Leeks are a great source of Vitamin K and A and the mineral manganese as well as plenty of phytonutrients that put the Allium family in the medicinal category. The majority of these compounds are in the leaves, not the bulb, so be sure to include some of the leaves when you chop up your leeks. The outer leaves (technically leaf sheaths) do tend to be tough so choose thinner leaks if you can. Leeks should be first chopped in half lengthwise and rinsed thoroughly as they tend to collect dirt between the leaves. Some of the tougher leaves can be used to make stock so don't discard them. Chop as needed for your favorite recipe. Think of leeks as refined onions - they can easily replace onions in most dishes.
Leek-Potato Soup or Vichysoisse
- 2 leeks, rinsed and chopped
- 1 potato, diced (leftover cooked potato also works). Best to peel.
- chicken or vegetable stock, 1 quart (homemade is always best)
- milk or cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- nutmeg or all spice if you want
Saute leeks and potato in a little olive oil. Add stock and simmer until all is tender. Blend either with immersion blender or regular blender (careful of hot liquids spurting). Salt and pepper to taste. Strain or sieve to have a more refined texture but you can easily skip this step (I rarely do this). When ready to serve add milk or cream (this depends on what you have in the fridge, your culinary fickleness, and/or fat quota needed for the day) and gently reheat. Add fresh ground all spice or nutmeg when serving.
Vichysoisse is often served cold. I grew up on cold soup but my family now objects to it so I most often serve it warm.