Friday, October 28, 2011

Try a delicious LEEK!

Sounds like a spooky food for a Halloween dinner - a leek.  But really it's a nice sweet version of an onion.  They can be used in place of onions for a milder and sweeter flavor.  And, they are part of the onion family, along with garlic and shallots.  What we think is a bit (or sometimes a lot) stinky about all of these is actually what makes them so darn good for us - it's the sulfur. 

Still sounds a bit on the scary side I guess!  However, not scary at all - sulfides help protect us against cancer.  They block hormones that promote and make it easier for cancer to develop and thrive.  Also, these same sulfides make it difficult for blood clots to form reducing our risk for stroke and heart attack.  I'm not stopping there!  They also reduce the bad LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Don't just use the white bulb at the end (same for those green onions).  The whole plant is good food!  Even the little mop head appearing roots at the end.  Just be sure to soak and get the dirt out.  The roots are filled with minerals.  As most vegetables that get on the super healthy list, leeks contain some carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin - great for preventing macular degeneration.  Leeks contain lots of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin K, and vitamin A. 

That should be enough to convince you!  If you are a gardener, they look wonderful in the garden and from experience are much easier to grow than onions.  Also, they don't mind the cold, so it's a plant you can leave in the ground even after the first snow (you'll have to thaw it before use).

I use leeks in stews and soups and also stir-frys.  Leeks and potatoes and leeks and lentils are favorite combinations.  Make this recipe, combining lentils, mushrooms and leeks and you've got yourself a great meal for health and it's tasty too!

Lentils and Mushrooms in Red Wine
If you like, this can be served over rice.
Prep time:  15 min.
Cook time:  25 min.

1 lg. leek
½ clove garlic
1 C fresh mushrooms
1 TB Olive oil
5 TB red wine
1 ½ TB chopped fresh parsley
½ TB chopped fresh thyme (or use 1 1/2 tsp. dried)
½ tsp Dijon-style mustard
3 TB tomato puree (just mash up a tomato w/ a fork or in a food procesor)
1 TB Worcestershire sauce (or soy, if needed)
2/3 C dry  lentils or 2 C from a can, drained (any color, pick your favorite)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley as garnish

1.       Combine lentils and 1 1/3 C water in a pan.  Bring to boiling and reduce heat.  Cook covered – 5 min. for red lentils, 10-15 for green or brown lentils.  Some lentils take longer – go for a solid, but soft texture – not mush.

2.       Slice the leek and then rinse in cold water and drain.  Mince the garlic and slice the mushrooms (not too small – they are delicious in large chunks).

3.       Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the leek and the garlic and cook 3 min., until the leek softens.

4.       Stir in the mushrooms, turn up the heat, stirring until lightly browned.

5.       Stir in the wine,  parsley and thyme, mustard, tomato puree, and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 min., stirring occasionally.

6.       Stir in the lentils and simmer another 5-10 min.  Turn up the heat to boil off any extra liquid, if needed.  Add salt and pepper and parsley to flavor.

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