chives

Chives — slender architectural appearance, with beautiful purple or white multi-flower blossoms are a beautiful addition to your herb garden, whether as a focal point or an entrance sentinel. Common chives, with the purple flowers, lend a flavor similar to onion, but without the bite. Garlic chives, whose plants are a bit larger, and feature white blossoms, bring a garlic flavor along, and are used frequently in Asian cuisine. Because they are one of the most delicate herbs, chives are best added to your dish at the very end to maximize their vibrant green collar and fresh-picked flavor. As a garnish, I like to snip them very finely, or lay long stalks elegantly across a plate, for a more drastic look. Did you know that the flowers are edible asa well? They tend to be a bit more pungent, and are gorgeous atop a salad, or alongside a plate of seafood with a chive beure blanc. Hmmm, dinner is looming….

I digress. I mentioned that chives are delicate herbs — those tend to be the ones that do not winter over, but die off after the first frost. As a member of the allium family (think onions and garlic) chives become dormant, so, when the ground warms in the spring, you will see the first tender leaves poking through, seeking the sun. With a little care, they will return each season, as beautiful as the year before. Besides enjoying the landscape, what are you going do with your beautiful chives? Garnish ALMOST anything (not ice cream!), make a simple tomato sauce, chive vinegar, chive oil…. Keep calm and chive on!

simple fresh tomato sauce with chives 

  • 1pound Roma tomatoes, washed and cored or one (15-ounce) can tomatoes or sauce (I usually use this option)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped, plus a few whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/2 pound dried pasta, for serving
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

If using fresh tomatoes: Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, cook, covered for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are very soft. Puree tomatoes in passe tutto (food mill) until desired consistency is reached. Return to pot. Continue with recipe as directed below.

If using canned tomatoes: chop to desired consistency. Place in pot. Continue with recipe as directed below.

To continue recipe: Add butter, onion halves, salt and pepper to taste. When heated through, taste and correct seasonings; add sugar if necessary. Simmer 1/2 hour, uncovered. Remove onion halves  and stir in chives before serving.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Darin well, toss into the sauce, serve  hot, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan and snipped chives.

Serves 4.

chive vinegar — or any kind of herb infused vinegar!

Just like infused oils, a bit of flavored or infused vinegar can perk up a dish beyond compare. They are so amazingly simple to prepare, and shelf life is indefinite due to the high acidity of vinegar. These vinegars are a great addition to your pantry — use them to perk up soups, stews, broiled chicken or steamed vegetables.

Best to use white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar, as they are mellow and complex. Red wine vinegar and cider vinegar work well, but are not as versatile, and these two are stronger in flavor than the whites. Distilled white vinegar? Mmm, NO! To me, it tastes like it will remove the enamel from my teeth! 

Wash and dry your herbs before adding to the vinegar. Salted water does a great wash job; then rinse and dry.And if you have blossoms, use those as well. A tall bottle of chive vinegar is so elegant with a beautiful blossom or two on a stalk, standing inside!

recommended herbs:

  • Chives (blossoms and leaves)
  • Dill (seeds and stems)
  • Mint (add orange zest!)
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

ratios

Use about 1 cup herbs to 1 quart vinegar.

Drop herbs into a clean glass bottle or jar. Heat the vinegar to 170°F and pour the hot vinegar onto the herbs. Seal the bottle and let stand 1 to 2 days. Proceed as above.

infused oil

A few drops of infused oil can contain a lot of flavor. Use for sautéing and stir-frying — but the most flavor is apparent when used uncooked. Infused oils are great for vinaigrettes and marinades, or just a drizzle to finish and garnish a dish. The freshness of a homemade oil is much more intense than its commercial counterpart — because it is fresher!

ratios

1/3 cup dried spice(s) or 1 cup packed fresh herbs / 2 cups oil

Fresh herbs must be heated with the oil for several minutes in order to pasteurize them, which prevents spoilage. The heat also releases the flavor of fresh ingredients into the oil.

Start by putting the herbs and the oil in a skillet (non-aluminum is best, as the metal may discolor your ingredients). Heat over low heat, slowly bringing the temperature of the mixture to 220°-250°F for 20 minutes — too low a temperature means you might not kill off all of the bacteria; too high, and you can scorch the herbs, ruining the taste of the oil. Also, every time you heat an oil, you shorten its shelf life. You need only as much heat as necessary to get flavor in and bacteria out. Stir occasionally during the heating process, to distribute the herbs.

When oil is finished infusing, let cool to room temperature. DO NOT attempt to pour hot oil. When oil is cooled, strain through a very fine sieve or through cheesecloth into a clean dry bottle or jar. Press on the solids to remove as much oil as possible. Seal the container.

tips:

  • Make sure your ingredients and jars are dry — moisture can spoil the oil.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. A few degrees can make or break your finished product.
  • Remove herbs from the finished oils unless you plan to use all of it within 2-3 days.
  • Store the oils in the refrigerator.
  • Check for rancidity before each use. Shelf-life for these oils ranges from 1 to 6 months.
  • DO NOT overheat these oils, or use them to cook with at high temperatures. They will scorch.

 

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