A Celebration of Leeks

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When I used to babysit for my neighbors’ children, sometimes I forgot to bring work or reading to keep me occupied after the kids were asleep, so I would raid the bookshelves and make my way through the chapters one night at a time.  It was during one of those times when I was first introduced to Mireille Guiliano and her writings on food and pleasure.  Although I am not a fan of the catchy title of her most popular book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, I do think she has loads and loads of wisdom to offer. Mireille’s philosophy in a nutshell (and you should really read her books yourself because I’m butchering it here) is that if we take time to engage our senses in all that we do, we can lead more fulfilled lives.  My introduction to Mireille also turned out to be my first introduction to leeks.  Mireille is a woman who really appreciates the leek in all its glory.  Her recipes are brimming over with leeks and she even uses leek juice as an occasional detox formula.  Although I don’t think I’m capable of following through with a detox (unless maybe it looks something like this), I have to agree with her that there is more to this unassuming vegetable than meets the eye.

First of all, they belong in the same allium family as the garlic and onion, so they are in great company.  They boast of high levels of Vitamins K, A, C and B6 and have manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and folate as well.  Leeks are more humble and subtle than onions and have soothing fragrant properties that conjure up images of cozy afternoons with a bowl of chicken soup.  They are good team players as well; they know how to complement other vegetables without dominating.  They are delicious in the morning when braised in oil or butter with spinach and eggs and a dash of salt.  They are the perfect companion to the potato in a bowl of creamy soup.  I also imagine they nicely accent the sweet-savory duet of strawberries and goat cheese in this dish. They do just fine as a side dish to a slab of grilled salmon or roasted poultry…and they are also able to hold their own quite nicely if given the chance.  This afternoon, I decided to let them stand alone and savor all their mildly sweet oniony flavors post-lunch, steamed and drizzled with balsamic reduction and olive oil.

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