Winter Delicacy: The Leek

THIS LONG, THIN, ELEGANT WINTER VEGETABLE WAS FIRST DESCRIBED IN WRITTEN DOCUMENTS FOUND IN MESOPOTAMIA.

Its trail continues in the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs and the myths of ancient Greece. Thanks to the flavor and aroma it imparts to food, the leek is the secret hero of the kitchen. Its characteristic smell, which comes from the sulphur it contains, makes some hate it as much as others love it. The pleasant fragrance of the leek, whose taste is milder and blander than that of its cousin, the onion, never overpowers the dishes to which it is added. High in nutritional value, the leek is a panacea for every ill. Plus it’s economical, plentiful and healthy.

Grown extensively in Turkey, the white leek, or leek proper, is tastier and more valuable than its cousin, the so-called dark, or green leek. In addition to its countless benefits, the stalk and root of the leek have a special place in many recipes. Used in various forms in everything from soup to beurek, the leek adds aroma, flavor and richness to meat stock and other dishes. Its syrup, seeds and juice also have a place in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Experts recommend slicing leeks, which are used in countless recipes in all the world’s cuisines, at least five minutes before cooking. When selecting leeks, pay attention to whether the leaves are green and the base white and that the heads are not bruised or yellowed. Leeks, which may be stored in the refrigerator for one weeks unwashed and uncut, should be kept in plastic bags to prevent drying out. Many unusual and innovative recipes are turning this queen of winter vegetables from a mere side dish into a star it its own right. Those who claim not to like leeks may be surprised at some of its modern permutations. Indeed, in a new twist to a classic recipe like leek beurek you could get an unexpected whiff of an exciting new aroma and rediscover the leek.

Benefits
1. A prebiotic, the leek aids in digestion and stimulates and strengthens the stomach, kidneys and gut.
2. It is a rich source of calcium.
3. It is a strong antioxidant and a very good source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyesight.
4. Low in calories, the leek is a healthy and nutritious diet vegetable.
5. It safeguards against cancer.

Leek Beurek

Ingredients:

2 red onions, finely sliced, 2 leek stalks, finely chopped, 2 sprigs of fresh wild thyme, 2 tbsp grated Kasher cheese, 1 tbsp sunfower oil, 2 sheets of yufka (phyllo leaves), 1 liter sunflower oil for frying, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Preparation:
Stirring constantly, sautée the red onions in the sunflower oil over low heat to caramelize them. Then add the leeks and half a cup of water and continue to cook over low heat. When the leeks are tender, transfer to another pot and mix in the grated cheese and wild thyme to make the filling. Fill the prepared phyllo leaves and fold into triangles. Deep fry in oil until golden brown and serve piping hot.

Stuffed Leeks

Ingredients:

150 g ground beef, 1 tbsp short-grain rice,
4 leeks, 1 tbsp pepper paste, 6-7 sprigs of fresh parsley, 6-7 sprigs of fresh dill weed, 6-7 sprigs of fresh mint, 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, 3 tbsp olive oil,
200 milliliters of water, 1 medium onion, finely chopped, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Preparation:
Cut the leeks in 10-12 cm lengths. Then remove the inner parts leaving three layers. Mix together the ground beef, pepper paste, parsley, dill, mint, salt, pepper and olive oil to make the stuffing and then fill the leeks. Saute the chopped onions for about five minutes in olive oil until tender. Then add the tomatoes. Add the stuffed leeks and water and cook over low heat for 30-35 minutes.

Leeks in Butter

Ingredients:

4 leeks cut into 7-8 cm lengths, 1 onion finely chopped, 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 200 g yoghurt, 2 tbsp roasted pine nuts, 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves,
2 liters of water, 4 tbsp olive oil, 100 g butter, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Preparation:
Purée the parsley, half of the roasted pine nuts, and the olive oil in a blender to the consistency of pesto. Add more olive oil for a thinner sauce. Place the sauce in a small bowl and put aside. Add salt to the 2 liters of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the leeks. Cook until tender and put aside. Mix the two cloves of chopped garlic with the yoghurt and let stand. In a separate pan melt half the butter and saute the onions and two cloves of garlic. When the butter begins to brown, pass through a strainer. Combine with the remaining 50 g of butter and place in a frying pan. Heat the butter over very low heat for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Add the boiled leeks to the browned butter and mix. When the leeks have heated, transfer to a plate. Top with the garlic yoghurt and parsley pesto. Sprinkle with the remaining roasted pine nuts and serve.