As wonderful as they may be in a recipe, leeks can often be a real pain to clean.
A member of the onion family, leeks look like large scallions with a thick stalk or base. Because the white part of the base is prized in cooking, farmers mound dirt around the leeks to keep out the sunlight, extending the white as the leek grows.
Unfortunately, a lot of that dirt and grit ends up in between the layers of the leeks as they grow.
To clean a leek, peel and discard any old outer leaves, then trim the leek of the dark green leaves and base, reserving the white and any of the very light green base. Trim the root end, then halve the leek lengthwise. Rinse the leek under cold, running water, feeling between the layers to loosen and dislodge any dirt or grit. Finally, slice and use as desired.
Finally, rinse the pieces in a colander under cold water. Just to make sure everything is totally clean.
Ready to go, they're perfect in the roasted pumpkin salad below.