Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jump n' Chive

Fresh herbs are vital to cooking. One of the main reasons people over-salt their food is because it is lacking in flavor. Fresh herbs help to bring the flavor without all the added sodium, and I use them religiously. As Deborah Madison describes in her book Local Flavors, “Herbs can take a vegetable on the most amazing journeys, changing a food from savory to sweet and back again, and they can make one vegetable seem like five.” Try tossing fresh herbs into a salad or top a dish with chopped herbs to bring a final burst of freshness.

Many herbs are very hardy and will grow almost anywhere. Living in Boston, I was able to have a little container herb garden on my front stoop and they were very happy. Since moving to Vermont, I have the luxury of a little bit of land, so I planted a perennial herb garden last year. It is a great feeling to watch in the spring as these perennials come back to life. The first to show signs were the chives, which are now in full bloom

Chives are part of the allium family which includes garlic, onions, ramps, scallions, and leeks. Chives are best used fresh so having a patch in your yard or in a pot on your windowsill can make it easy to snip some herbs into your dish. If you’re not growing your own, fresh chives are readily available in the supermarket or at the farmer’s market in the spring. Cut chives can be stored in the refrigerator unwashed in a sealed plastic bag. Do not wash them before storing as the clinging water from washing can promote decay.

Many people just think of chives as a topping for baked potatoes which can make them sadly underused, but they impart a subtle onion flavor to many dishes. Use chives with cooked eggs; add them to soups or use as a topping for fish. The clover-like purple flowers are also edible and can be a wonderful addition to a salad or as a garnish.

I adapted this recipe from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors.

Crostini with Chive Scented Ricotta

Makes 2 cups, enough for 20 crostini

This recipe is especially over the top if you use fresh home-made ricotta. The ricotta can also be used as a sauce for pasta or folded into an omelet or scrambled eggs.

2 cups cow’s milk or sheep’s milk ricotta

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup finely snipped chives

Chive blossoms cut at the base

20 slices Red Hen Baguette

Mix the ricotta, oil, salt, pepper, and chives together. Toast the bread until golden, then spread the cheese on top. Add a tiny bit of additional pepper and a few chive blossoms to each slice.

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