Friday, June 4, 2010
Each spring, I await the return of chives in my garden with great anticipation. To the cook in me, the emergence of the delicate stalks through the still cool earth is a sure sign that spring has finally arrived. The beauty of this herb is that it will continue to produce its slender, hollow, straw-like leaves throughout the growing season and is one of the last ones to disappear before the cold winter months arrive. Of course, in warmer climates, chives can be grown throughout the year and they are readily available in grocery stores yearlong. Chives are one of the most common herbs used, but the fresh, delicate onion flavour makes it a perennial favourite.
Chives are another herb that have benefits in addition to the flavour and colour that it adds to countless dishes including fish, potatoes, egg dishes and many more. In the garden, chives repel unwanted pests in flower beds and bees are attracted to their lavender coloured flowers, which aids in pollination. Although chives are consumed in small quantities as a garnish, they are rich in iron and calcium and in vitamins A and C.
In traditional French cooking, chives are included in the classification of “fines herbes” along with tarragon, chervil and parsley. This grouping of herbs is the backbone of the more delicate herbs found in French cuisine. The French philosophy towards herbs is that they should compliment and enhance the main flavours of a dish and never overpower the main elements. That is precisely what I love about chives. A few chives, chopped finely and added to scrambled eggs or an omelette for Sunday brunch, or added to “smashed” red potatoes or in butter to drizzle on steaming hot fingerling potatoes, add a delicate flavour element to simple dishes that makes them memorable. Chives are lovely in salads and are a perfect accompaniment to fish. Sour cream and chives are an unbeatable combination and can be used together in innumerable ways. Whole chive leaves and chive blossoms can add drama to even the simplest dish. Make chives a staple in your kitchen and they will repay you, dish after dish and season after season.
Crostini with Cold Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream & Chives
This is an easy to prepare appetizer or starter that is always enjoyable. Specific amounts of ingredients have not been given, as you can prepare as little or as much as you need, depending on the number of people you are serving.
Extra virgin olive oil
Cold smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Chives, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the baguette in ¼ inch slices on the diagonal. Brush the top of each slice with extra virgin olive oil. Add a very light dusting of sea salt. Bake the slices on the middle rack in the preheated oven, either directly on the oven rack or on a baking sheet, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until partially crisp. While they are baking, remove the peel from a clove or two of garlic and slice the cloves in half, lengthwise. When the crostini has been removed from the oven, rub each piece with the sliced side of a piece of garlic, while the crostini is still hot. Top each piece of crostini with a thin slice of cold smoked salmon, about a teaspoon of sour cream and a sprinkling of the chopped chives. Serve immediately.