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Fresh From the Farmers' Market: Loads of Leeks

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You've surely spotted these beauties at your local farmers' market: large, leafy leeks that look a lot like green onions on steroids. Leeks do belong to the onion family but are more mild in taste than you might expect. They're also available pretty much year-round thanks to California's temperate weather, but to taste them at their best you're better off buying them fall through spring.

Common as they are in nearby farm fields and market stands, leeks are called for in recipes about as frequently as kumquats, and that's a shame, because with a little heat leeks render down to sweet and buttery comfort food. We dug up two quick options for the leafy veggie. Note that both recipes instruct you to discard the upper, dark portions of the leaves (they're tough even when cooked); the lower light green portion of the leaves and the white bulb are what you'll use.

First, a deliciously easy leek and potato soup, adapted from Vegetarian Times.

You'll need:

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1 lb washed leeks, light green and white parts chopped, dark green tops and roots discarded
3 large yukon gold potatoes, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth (can use veggie broth to keep it vegetarian)
2 tsp grated ginger, fresh
1 tsp lemon juice, fresh
1 tbs olive oil
salt to taste

For garnishing:
Sliced green onions
Thin lemon slices

Heat oil in pot and saute onion for twenty minutes on low heat. Toss in leeks, potatoes, ginger, and broth. Once boiling, cover pot, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 more minutes. Potatoes should feel tender. Set pot aside and allow contents to cool for 10-20 minutes.

Once cool, use a slotted spoon to transfer chunks (not liquid broth) to food processor. Slowly churn contents, adding broth in slowly until incorporated. Return soup back to pan and heat, adding salt to taste and the lemon juice. Serve soup in bowls and garnish each serving with green onions and lemon slices.

If you feel like testing leeks out in a simpler way, consider roasting them. We used directions from Grandpa's Home Cooking blog.

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You'll need:

2-3 fresh leeks per person, top green portions and roots discarded, light green portion and bulb washed
olive oil
salt and pepper
roasting pan or cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cleaned cut leaves on roasting pan or baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (they shouldn't swim in oil, just use enough to coat them slightly) and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes.