Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Harvest

As I was poking around in the garden this afternoon mourning the fact that the "last danger of frost" STILL isn't past and it'll be another week before I can even plant any vegetable outside, I almost stepped right into the middle of a big clump of chives. Actually, I have three. Big full clumps of chives, with buds forming.

A tender, mild member of the onion family, chives grow in clumps and look sort of like a big strong patch of overgrown grass until the buds fill out and burst into balls of tiny purple and white flowers. Chives are perennial even in New England, they self-seed so the patch just keeps on expanding, and they come up early (right alongside the first round of grass) and mature fast. Chives work perfectly in containers or in the ground, and start well from seed.

Chives often appear as a garnish, so because I rarely find the time to dribble or sprinkle on little goodies just so a dish is pretty, I rarely use them. But every spring, when they burst out in my garden, I remember that in large quantity, chives qualify as a full-on ingredient. They can be used anywhere you'd use a green onion, and most places you'd use other onions. Chives taste a lot like they look, green, and are best raw, though they cook nicely in certain things like omelettes and quiche. My favorite places to use them are in marinades and salads. In salads, the chive buds are delicious and beautiful - use them before they open as they get a little big and unwieldy once the little purple flowers peep out.

The lemon-olive oil marinade Renee just put in is one of my all-time favorites. The other, and a nice change of pace, is this:

Sweet and green marinade for beef or chicken

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 T tabasco sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped chives

In a saucepan, melt butter, then add all ingredients except chives and stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Add chives. Pour over meat in a plastic bag and marinate in refrigerator for 2-24 hours.

Greek Salad with chives

There are a few base items that to me make a salad Greek: feta cheese and chick peas. Then there are a few others that make a full Greek salad: Kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, and onions. Usually, I use thinly sliced red onions in my Greek salads and because I don't like them too strong I try to slice them the night before I want to use them and then soak them in the fridge in a container with water and a pinch of sugar. But this time of year, I use chives!

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 can chick peas, drained
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped chives plus a small handful of buds

To dress a Greek salad, I use a lemon vinaigrette or a balsamic vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard

1 comment:

maamypatom said...

Your Greek salad idea reminded me of how good chives are in tabouli, which also makes me wonder if I would like quinoa substituted for bulgar or couscous in tabouli. I have recently become a big fan of quinoa. Do you ever cook with it? Not exactly local, I guess.