Why haven't leeks become a mainstay in American cooking? It's a mystery to leek-lovers, who turn to them for everything from elegant appetizers to satisfying main dishes. "Leeks are pretty special— they have a taste that's a subtle combination of garlic and onions," says Robert Schueller, produce expert at Melissa's Produce in Los Angeles. Still, most Americans don't know how to cook with leeks and just use onions and garlic, according to Schueller. "Leeks had disappeared from produce departments in recent years, but chefs are starting to bring them back and we're seeing more grocery stores carrying them," he adds.
While their culinary cousins tend to take a supporting role in recipes, leeks have enough color, texture, and flavor to be given star treatment in a wide variety of dishes. "I use them every which way I can— soups, stews, and barbecued straight-up on the grill. My wife is very big on putting them in breakfast dishes, like omelets," Schueller says. The following recipes provide a sample of all leeks have to offer. Give 'em a try and before you know it, you'll belong to the (growing) legions of leek lovers across the country.