From the Motherland is a series in which I pay homage to my Ukrainian heritage and share my favorite childhood recipes.
Leeks haven’t played a big part in my adult life either. For years, I walked past leeks at the store, ignored them on restaurant menus, and disregarded recipes that called for them. I knew they were similar to onions and just figured I didn’t need another allium in my life. Only recently did I discover how wrong I was.
A month or so ago, I had dinner with a friend at a Polish restaurant here in Syracuse. There was a leek salad on the menu, which sounded really fresh and verdant, which would go perfectly with our pierogi.
The salad was a mess of thinly sliced raw leeks, apples, and shredded carrots lightly coated in mayo. As I took my first bite, I realized I had eaten this before. (Polish and Ukrainian cuisines are very similar.) It immediately took me back to a vague memory of a loud family gathering around a long table piled high with homemade food. I couldn’t place the exact time or location of this flashback, but my taste memory didn’t fail me.
Since then, I’ve been buying leeks and really enjoying experimenting with them. Although they belong to the onion family, they couldn’t be more different from their round, yellow counterparts. Leeks are less spicy, more floral, have a crunchy texture, and taste more… well, more green! Which makes them perfect for spring. They’re also high in minerals and antioxidants, great for heart health, and may assist in cancer prevention.
This simple leek salad with apples and carrots makes a great side dish for any meal that could use some extra crunch and freshness. And if you celebrate Easter, it would be absolutely perfect for Easter lunch.
How to Clean Leeks
One thing you’ll notice about leeks is how much dirt they house between their layers. To clean the leeks for this recipe, trim the root end of the leek, as well as a few inches off the dark green portion (just the part that looks bruised and/or dry). Then slice the stalk in half lengthwise and cut the leeks into thin half moons. Place the sliced leeks into a big bowl of cold water and swirl them around with your hands to release all the dirt. Lift the leeks out of the water and place back onto your cutting board. Drain the water and replace with new water. Repeat the process once or twice more until the leeks are clean.Print
This Ukrainian leek salad makes for a crunchy and refreshing side dish.
- 1 large or 2 small leeks
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 granny smith apple (or another tart apple variety), cored and cut into matchsticks
- ¼ cup vegan mayo (I like Sir Kensington’s)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Start by cleaning the leek: Trim the root end of the leek, as well as a few inches off the dark green portion (just the part that looks bruised and/or dry). Halve the stalk lengthwise and cut the leek into thin half moons. Place the sliced leeks into a big bowl of water and swirl them around with your hands to release all the dirt. Lift the leeks out of the water and place back onto your cutting board. Drain the water and replace with new water. Repeat the process once or twice more until the leeks are clean.
- In a large bowl, combine the leeks, carrot, apple, mayo, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Serve immediately.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 120