Out of all of the vegetables that I helped grow at the farm this year, I’ve had the hardest time waiting for the leeks.
Leeks are my favorite member of the allium family, which also contains garlic, onions, and scallions. I like leeks the most because they become so silky and sweet when cooked.
Leeks are slow to mature, so I’ve been waiting for them ever since I planted the seeds back in May.
When shopping for leeks, look for ones that have plenty of white on the stalk. You only use the white and light green parts of the stalk for cooking, so you want to get your money’s worth. Also make sure that the leek is firm and smooth. Avoid leeks with cracked or bruised bulbs.
To prepare leeks, trim off the root end and the dark green leaves at the top.
Next, you have to clean them. Slice the leek almost in half, just about to the root end. Fan out the leaves and rinse the leek under cold running water or in a bowl. For a picture tutorial on cleaning leeks, click here.
Leeks are delicious sauteed, braised, roasted, or grilled. Cook them until they’re caramelized and almost melting.
Here are my top ten favorite vegetarian and vegan leek recipes for fall:
1. Leek Bread Pudding (vegetarian): When we pulled some leeks two weeks ago to see if they were big enough for market (they weren’t), this is the dish I made. I love bread pudding of all kinds, but this savory version with caramelized leeks, toasted bread, cheese, and custard is my favorite. I substituted the brioche for homemade leek and cheese muffins I’d made the day before.
2. Leeks with Asian Vinaigrette (vegan): I usually do these leeks on my grill pan over the stove, but they also work great on an outdoor grill. Try them in a sandwich with baked tofu, pea shoots, and spicy mustard.
3. Mac 4 Cheese with Leeks (vegetarian): A delicious departure from your typical mac and cheese.
4. Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens (vegan): This rustic, healthy, and meatless stew makes a hearty main course. It also makes good use of kale, another fall specialty and a nutritional powerhouse.
5. Braised Leeks (vegan): This classic preparation makes a great starting dish or side. It’s also really delicious over a crusty baguette.
6. Pomegranate Braised Leeks (vegan): If braising leeks in oil and wine sounds too boring, try this unusual version with pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses. It would make a colorful side dish for Thanksgiving dinner.
8. Creamy Potato-Leek Soup (vegan): The classic leek soup, veganized. It’s so creamy that you’ll never guess it’s dairy-free.
9. Black-eyed Peas and Leeks (vegetarian): My grandma loves black-eyed peas, so when I spotted some gorgeous looking leeks at the farmers market the last time I visited her, I made this recipe. She doesn’t have much of an appetite these days, but she couldn’t get enough of this simple bean dish.
10. Shepherd’s Pie (vegetarian): Even meat-eaters will be pleased by this vegetarian shepherd’s pie. Heady vegetable stew with a red wine gravy, chewy seitan, and a topping of fluffy mashed potatoes and celery root will have everyone coming back for seconds. A good candidate for Thanksgiving dinner.
Do you have a favorite way to cook leeks? Share your recipe as a comment!