Braised leeks and carrots with citrus sauce: delicious, healthy and so fast
Time: prep. 5 mins
cook. 15-25 mins
Yields: 2 portions
Before we talk about the braised leeks and carrots with citrus sauce recipe, I’d like to emphasize the importance of leeks from both a culinary and health perspective.
Leeks are close cousins to onions, spring onions, shallots and garlic. Even though garlic or onion are considered as characteristic components of Italian cuisine, there are many people who cannot appreciate their peculiar and pungent taste. On the contrary, leeks can satisfy almost everyone, with their not too intrusive character.
Moreover, the similarity continues: just like the other members of the Liliaceae family, leeks should be included in the classification of superfoods. Rich in vitamins, in particular A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), C and K; of mineral salts, especially manganese, iron, copper and magnesium; an excellent source of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin and allicin (if you want to know how to get the most out of it, you can read this article) useful in fighting free radicals and reducing bad cholesterol; and other phytonutrients such as kaempferol, which alone would be enough to call leeks “promoters of the immune system“: in addition to being a powerful anti-cancer agent, kaempferol provides valuable protection to blood vessels, reduces the risk of high blood pressure, as well as obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory phenomena.
But there is more; reason why it is good to serve them recurrently during their season (you can consult this list to learn the harvest seasons of the most consumed fruits and vegetables).
Inulin present in leeks is an oligosaccharide not digestible by our body; therefore it passes intact from the stomach, remains indifferent to pancreatic juices and reaches the colon keeping all its properties; in this way we feed the “good” microorganisms constituting the microbiota that live in symbiosis with us and produce metabolites such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA), very useful to achieve a healthy life.
For this reason, inulin is called a prebiotic by all means.
And do you know where it is found the most? Along with asparagus, artichokes and chicory root also in leeks!
Even if in lower concentrations than the first ones in the list, leeks, being made of 3-16g of inulin per 100 grams of fresh product(1), can make up a good part of the daily requirement, which certainly varies from person to person. In order to have beneficial effects, in case a person is healthy and without digestive disorders, it would be good not to stay under 5 grams per day; however it is not rare that its consumption is recommended for specific disorders, in dosages of 8 or 12 grams: to reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure or to fight obesity.
But, as always, I reiterate my advice about moderation, in general, even for foods that are so beneficial for health: inulin acts on the microbiota like fertilizers do in agriculture, of which we know the harmful effects in excessive doses; in the case of our colon, too much inulin could cause bloating, meteorism, poor digestion; in the long term, imbalances would be generated in the colonies of microorganisms with undesirable and incalculable results.
So even though this recipe of braised leeks and carrots with citrus sauce is not only very healthy but also easy to prepare, you should never forget the key word: moderation.
2 leeks (better if you use the white parts)
2 small carrots
1 tablespoon of well-washed rice (I had basmati, but you can also use any white rice or brown rice – soaking it at least 4 hours before – or millet or quinoa would be also good)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
half a glass of water (if you do not use a pressure cooker, put at least 1 glass of water)
for the citrus sauce
the juice of half a lemon
the juice of one orange
1 tablespoon of raw extra virgin olive oil
a few leaves of parsley
a few slices of lemon (without fungicide or other)
To prepare this side dish of braised leeks and carrots with citrus sauce (of Turkish origin), you do not need any culinary skills, nor long preparation times. You only need to wash and cut the vegetables into slices, in this way it becomes one of your dinner-saving recipes.
Moreover, although it may seem like a dish with a predictable flavor, thanks to the proportions I have indicated and the citrus sauce, it will surprise you with a suave flavor.
By now you know that in the kitchen of CHE the taste is not the only thing we care about; we want to get most of what the food offers us, so that by reducing the quantity we do not run the risk of any deficiency.
By cutting the leek together with the carrots and putting them immediately into the hot pot, we would not benefit from its allicin content (certainly in less quantity than garlic), since it is thermolabile; therefore together with allicin we would also lose the possibility of reducing our bad cholesterol.
What to do? Eat it raw? That would not be practicable for many! At least not for me.
Some scientists recommend that garlic or its parents (in this case leeks), cut or chopped, be left “to rest” for at least 10 minutes before cooking; this will allow the formation of organosulfur compounds with miraculous effects(2).
So start making this recipe by first cutting up the leeks
Take a pressure cooker or a normal pot, put the oil, the vegetables (with the leeks cut 10 minutes before), the rice and the water. Close the pot with the lid and cook until the rice is perfectly cooked. It takes about 6 minutes in the pressure cooker (after the whistle). For the regular pot, the time is a bit longer: let the leeks and carrots soften with water for about fifteen minutes, only then add the rice; another 10 minutes and it will be done cooking (or when the rice you have chosen is cooked).
This side dish of leeks and carrots with citrus sauce, traditionally is cooked together with orange and lemon juice. But by doing so, besides denaturing the content of Vitamin C, it also combines another trouble: the inulin present in leeks is a natural molecule and as such it fears certain physical and chemical conditions; despite its resistance to gastric juices, when it is in an acid environment (below pH 5, lemon juice pH is around 2), it is not able to be stable at temperatures above 60 degrees, starting to degrade(3). This obviously does not happen during digestion because the internal temperature of our body is fixed at 37 degrees. That’s why I suggest to add orange and lemon juice only at the end of cooking and after cooling down
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Serve warm or cold with the well emulsified orange and lemon sauce, after having garnished your side dish with lemon slices and freshly cut parsley: cut it just before serving, in order to keep its aroma longer; in other words its terpenes, which being very volatile and not very stable, they become depotentiated, or transform into some other aroma in a short time. Therefore by adopting this last trick, besides having a meal rich in aromas, we will obtain another extraordinary property: in ancient Chinese medicine, as well as in aromatherapy, beta-pinene (the terpene of parsley, rosemary or basil) is believed to be capable of increasing concentration and mental energy.
Maybe it’s self-suggestion, but I do feel really energized just by cutting the herbs in question. Trying is believing: remember only at the last moment, before serving.
Enjoy your veggies and good revolution to all
(1) Thammarutwasik, Paiboon et al. (2009). Prebiotics – A Review. Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technology. 31. 401-408.
(2) Song K, Milner JA. The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):1054S-1057S. (PubMed)
(3) Glibowski, Pawel & Anna, Bukowska. (2011). The effect of pH, temperature and heating time on inulin chemical stability. Acta Scientiarum Polonorum : Technologia Alimentaria.