Underappreciated Winter Vegetables

A recent Downton Abbey episode mentions vichyssoise, a leek and potato soup that is served cold and was made famous in 1917 by a French chef at New York’s Ritz-Carlton. Beetroots, leeks and Brussels sprouts, it seems, have shed their boring image and resurfaced as healthy and easy-to-prepare vegetables. Thank goodness for that!  I have roasted beets and broiled Brussels sprouts for the past few months – easy ways to incorporate vegetables as part of the main meal or as a side dish.

Beets: Cut the leafy stalks to about 3-inches above the root and discard or use the stalks to make vegetable stock. Rinse the root and remove any grit attached to it. Place the beet on aluminum foil. Roast or bake at 350°F for one to two hours depending on the size of the beets. The beet is cooked when a fork goes through it easily. Peel the skin off. Roasted beets can be eaten on their own, with goat cheese, or can serve as a nutritious pop of color in a green salad.

Brussels sprouts: Remove one or two of the outer layers. Using a paring knife, slice the sprouts thinly. Mix with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the sprouts on an aluminum foil and broil on high for 2-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully flip over the sliced sprouts. Put them back in the oven to broil for another minute or two. Some of the leaves will be crispier than others, which adds a nice crunch when they are tossed and mixed together.

Leeks: A. stated that I omitted to mention the easy way to clean leeks. At Thanksgiving, her aunt had shown us how to do so – with a far easier way than what I had been doing for years! Leeks often have mud and grit, acquired during their growth, embedded between the outer dark-green leaves.

  • After trimming the roots near the white base, remove any outer leaves that are damaged or tough.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a slit through the interwoven leaves as shown in the video. Hold the leek under the faucet and let the water run through the slit, slightly fanning the leaves out so the dirt washes away.

Leeks are members of the onion family, but instead of the growing into a tight bulb like the onion, the leek bulb grows into a long, elongated shaft of interwoven leaves. The usable part above the roots is the white base, the inner light-green leaves, and the outer, dark-green ones.

Leeks can replace onion or garlic in a stir-fry dish or omelet. Alternatively, pair with sliced potatoes, Swiss cheese, cream, and chopped chives and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F.