CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I've been going a little crazy with chives lately. The bunch I planted last spring wintered over and is now a healthy stand topped with pale purple blooms. The blooms are edible as well as the chives, although they do indicate that the plants are mature and the leaves are not quite as tender as younger plants.
The humble chive leaf is most commonly used chopped and sprinkled over baked potatoes, à la Wendy's. Those desiccated bits of dark green bear little resemblance to recently harvested leaves.
This is all fine for you, Julie, you say. You have a healthy supply in your garden. Well, you can have one, too. Plant vendors at farmers' markets, garden centers and sometimes even the produce section at the grocery store offer herb plants, including chives. Plant one in the ground or in a pot for your own fresh supply.
Chives are in the allium family, and are milder than its cousins, including garlic, onions, scallions, leeks and shallots. Although all parts of the chive plant are edible, chives are typically cut off at the soil level, leaving the roots to send up new shoots for future harvest.
I read about an interesting use for chive blossoms, which are in full bloom right now: Fill a one-quart jar about half full with white vinegar. Cut the blossoms as they open and submerge them in the vinegar. The plant will produce blossoms more quickly when the mature flowers are "deadheaded," or snipped.
When the jar is full of vinegar-covered blossoms, cover the jar and let the mixture steep for at least two weeks in a dark, cool place. The blossoms will fade to white and the vinegar will become bright pink. The blossoms infuse the vinegar with a delicate chive flavor.
Chopped chives lend understated flavor to butters and cream sauces, and couldn't be easier to make. Just mix chives into softened butter or cream cheese to take the mundane ingredients up a notch.
Chives' flexible stems make great edible ties for bundling foods such as in asparagus spears in a cream sauce recipe below. Tea sandwiches, rolled pieces of salmon and colorful bunches of steamed haricots verts, red pepper slices, pea pods and yellow squash make an elegant presentation when tied with chive leaves.
To prolong chives' freshness, whether they're freshly cut or purchased from the produce section, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, wrap them in paper towel, seal the moist packet in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Chives will stay fresh at least a week with that treatment.
I recently made the chicken, potato and cherry tomato recipes below, but couldn't quite bring myself to use the 1 1/2 sticks of butter required in the buttermilk chive biscuit recipe. I've included it because of the rave reviews it received in the comments section of smittenkitchen.com.Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce
Recipe from eatingwell.com.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)
PLACE chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour.
HEAT 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
HEAT the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.
RETURN the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 244 calories, 9 grams fat, 72 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrate, 26 grams protein, 0 grams fiber, 679 milligrams sodium, 334 milligrams potassium.
Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe from eatingwell.com.
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
HEAT oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
ADD tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the skins start to split, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; toss with chives and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 48 calories, 3 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein, 153 milligrams sodium, 355 milligrams potassium.
Smashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives
Based on a recipe from foodnetwork.com.