Leeks are a member of the onion family, but have a slightly sweeter and subtler flavor than their cousin, the Spanish onion. The sweet flavor of leeks makes them a great base for many soups, sauces, meat and fish preparations.
Thought to be native to the Mediterranean area and Asia, leeks have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. Today, they can be found in just about any supermarket.
The narrow province of Novara reaches high up into the Swiss frontier. Leeks can adapt to growing in many climate zones, but the flavor is best after a light frost, which makes the hilly region of Novara an ideal place to grow leeks and other earthy forest food, such as the prized tartufo d’Alba.
Leeks grow best in sandy soil, so it’s important to wash them thoroughly, as grit and sand get stuck between the leaves. Choose leeks with brightly colored leaves and an unblemished white portion. Avoid leeks that are withered or spotted. The smaller the leek is in size, the more tender it will be. Refrigerate leeks in a plastic bag for up to 5 days. Before using, trim rootlets and leaf ends. Slit the leeks from top to bottom and wash thoroughly to remove all the dirt trapped between the leaf layers.