I have a confession:
I am wholeheartedly in love with leeks. I don’t even know when I first discovered this miraculous vegetable. I think I was following some random recipe a billion years ago that called for a leek or two. I remember that it took me forever to find it in the grocery store (even as I wondered whether I should just substitute with a random brown onion… AS IF), and even more time to figure out just what part of this thing I was supposed to eat.
I found out the hard way that those dark green leafy tops are not to be trifled with… better to just set them aside and go for the gorgeous space between the root and the base of the leaves. I fell in love with this veggie almost immediately and decided long before I was vegan that I simply could not complete a poultry or fish recipe without them (I found that red meat just absorbed the taste and made it disappear completely). Once I decided that a vegan lifestyle was for me, I connected even more with leeks. They are such a staple for me that I’ve often wondered how I ever lived without them.
One of my favorite things about leeks is that they are fast. I am so conscious of time that I don’t like to spend too much of it cooking for just myself. I tend to eat when I’m hungry, and when when that happens I want immediate gratification. I’m simply not up for waiting an hour for a meal just to satisfy my appetite. I love to slice the stems of leeks long, hit them with himalayan salt and cracked pepper, and pop them in a super hot oven for about 10-15 minutes. Perfect every single time. They make their own juice inside, and they’re just a bit crispy on the outside. It’s literally one of my favorite things to eat.
If I’m craving something more hearty and I have more time, I slice them into rings, and mix them with cauliflower heads and diced red potatoes (the really small ones). I toss everything in a bowl with cracked salt, pepper, smashed garlic and a 1/2 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, and throw it on a cooking sheet (one layer). I broil the mix for 15-25 minutes, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and eat. The best thing about this mixture is, the longer it sits, the better it tastes. It’s even more amazing (though not as firm in texture) the next day.
They also taste amazing roasted with brussel sprouts (which is the only way I’ll actually eat brussel sprouts) and asparagus, separate or alone. I keep the spices very simple so that the flavor of the vegetables actually comes through.
If I’m cooking leeks on top of the stove, it’s typically to season something else. I’ll sautee them to make with my version of Pho (which isn’t nearly as amazing as the original recipe. I mostly do it by taste) or before adding to a soup or sauce. I make a ‘cream’ sauce with cauliflower and red potatoes and leeks by lightly cooking in a pan with a little olive oil, then tossing into the Vitamix for a thorough puree. The consistency is perfect to create an ‘alfredo’ situation over tremella noodles (or kelp if you can stand the chew factor) or to mix into gravies or drizzle over vegetables.
I despise ‘vegetable broth.’ It’s simply not the same. I remember when I first went vegan I was annoyed about giving up chicken broth. I used to use chicken broth in EVERYTHING… especially in curries (in place of water). I swear that broth made everything better. When I became vegan I started buying pre-made vegetable broth. I even found some interesting interpretations with miso and ginger. Nope. All of it altered the taste of my food in such a way that I didn’t want to eat it. So I started making my own:
6 leeks (sliced)
1 head of garlic (sliced)
Himalayan Salt to taste
Cracked pepper to taste
Corriander to taste
Cumin to taste
Cayenne to taste
1/2 pound of diced yellow tomatoes (I don’t like to alter the color with red ones)
juice of 1 lemon (maybe two, depending on your tastes)
I saute everything except lemon in a tablespoon of water, then transfer to a large pot and fill it with water. Then I put it on simmer and let it cook… for HOURS. I let it cook down to almost nothing, mix in the lemon juice, then strain out the solid matter. Best broth ever. Ideally it’s nearly clear with just a hint of a yellow/green tinge. When it’s done, I store it in mason jars, refrigerate and use it with whatever I need. I’ll even make it piping hot and pour over cold rice noodles (bootleg Pho!) with green onions, jalepenos, bean sprouts and basil. So freaking good.
As you can see, I’m in love. This vegetable is simply awesome. I can’t wait to find more new and exciting ways to use it!