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Leeks are in season. We have recipes

Leeks are in season. We have recipes
Mounds of leeks at the Santa Monica farmers market on March 15. (Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times)

What's in season: At first glance, leeks probably look a bit like green onions on steroids, with bunches of two or three bundled together with a rubber band or a twine bow. A member of the allium family, leeks are closely related to onions, garlic, shallots and, yes, green onions. Leeks are prized for imparting subtle but fragrant notes to a variety of dishes, and they've been popular since ancient times (the Roman Emperor Nero supposedly ate them to improve his singing voice). While leeks can be found year-round, they're a classic spring vegetable, available in markets from late winter through early summer.

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What to cook: Leeks need a good cleaning before using, as dirt often gets stuck between the layers of leaves as they grow. With the root still intact, halve the leeks lengthwise, running the plant under cool water to wash away any bits of dirt or sand. Slice or chop the tender portion (the white and light green parts), sautéing or slowly sweating them to soften and mellow their flavor. Add leeks to stews or ragouts, or get creative, incorporating the vegetable in a savory panna cotta, or thinly sliced and fried for a crunchy garnish. Save the tough outer green parts to infuse flavor in stocks and broths.

What's on the horizon: New potatoes are showing up, Murray Family Farms is selling the first cherries of the season, "Royal K", this week at select markets.

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