The Nutritious World of Leeks

Leeks, a member of the onion and garlic family, have long been grown and cooked in Europe and the Mediterranean. Historians claim Nero ate leeks in soup regularly, thinking they were good for his singing voice. He may have gotten the notion from Aristotle who claimed the clear cry of the partridge was due to its diet of leeks. Only recently have they become popular in the United States.

An average size leek contains approximately 40 calories and 305 mg of salt which is 13% of the daily requirement. They also contain significant levels of manganese (15%) and iron (8%). Leeks are believed to fight cancer, especially colon and prostate cancer. They contain quercetin and other compounds which inhibit carcinogenic development and also restrict the spread of cancer. Leeks also contain kaempferol, a substance which has been shown to reduce ovarian cancer in women. The green parts of leeks are especially nutritious, containing B vitamins and loaded with protective antioxidants such as carotenoids and lutein.

Leeks are much milder and sweeter than onions, and less bitter than a scallion. The edible portions of the leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The onion-like layers form around a core. The tender core may be eaten; but, as the leek ages, the core becomes woody and very chewy. Leeks are typically chopped into slices which have a tendency to fall apart, due to the layered structure of the leek. Leeks take a little cleaning, but they have great flavor, particularly in soup.

This following recipe is almost archaic, but is a favorite in my family. Serve as a light dinner with warm rolls and you'll be singing its praises just like Nero.

Potato Leek Soup

2 T butter
2-3 leeks, washed and sliced (white and light green parts)
1½ pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 t salt
black pepper to taste.

Saute the leeks in butter over medium heat until softened, 8-10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stock, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, lower heat, partially covered, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are completely soft, about 30 minutes. If there isn't enough liquid, add more stock ½ cup at a time.

You can serve the soup like this, use a potato masher to break up the potato a bit or if you prefer a smoother, heavier consistency put all of the soup in a food processor.

Garnish with additional pepper and serve.

About Carol DiPirro:

Carol has been passionate about cooking, nutrition and healthy eating since she was a child, baking her first eggless cake from scratch at 8 yrs old. Growing up in an Italian family, clean healthy eating was the furthest thing from her dinner table. She has enjoyed years of re-creating her family’s favorite meals in a lighter, healthier way. She is currently studying towards a degree in Nutrition. Join Carol's Facebook Fan page: Chilly Peppers

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