Kitchen Tip: Six Ways to Use Chives

Food, How-To
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I’ve never been particularly interested in cream cheese (with the exception of pumpkin cream cheese) but lately, I’ve been all about eating half of a whole-wheat bagel with chive cream cheese in the morning.

Fine, sometimes I’m all about eating an entire whole-wheat bagel but you know what?

There’s no one keeping score here.

This morning I was waiting for my bagel to take a spin through the toaster at the Dunkin Donuts in my building and when the barely-English-speaking toaster attendant who handed me a freshly creased paper bag asked me what chives were.

I mean, I know what chives are.

Dana knows what chives are.

The delightfully oblivious toaster master? Did not know what chives were and despite the fact that I eat them, cook with them and most recently, spread them on my bagel, I was stumped at how to answer his question.

In my pre-caffeinated state I should have just suggested that he go home and Google it but instead I think I confused him even more and it’s entirely possible that I turned him off chives for life.

So, I did what any self-respecting food writer would do: I got back to my desk and immediately looked up the definition of chives so that next time I’ll be better prepared to answer tough questions.

Chives are most commonly used as flavoring herb, and offer food a somewhat milder taste than their close cousins in the onion family.

They have a wide variety of culinary uses from soups to fish to sandwiches – more than I’d ever imagined and more than you probably know possible.

I mean, I at least hope so.

Otherwise I’m probably wasting my time here.

Six Uses for Chives

Infuse with chives

Although we typically purchase herbs from the supermarket that look like long, skinny blades of grass, chives actually produce a beautiful purple blossom.

Not only are they fun to look at but you can create fantastic vinegar infusions to use as a base for your next sauce or salad dressing.

About.com recommends that you fill a one quart jar about 1/2 full of white vinegar. Fill the jar with blossoms so that they are submerged. Cover and let steep in a dark cupboard for at least 2 weeks. The blossoms will fade to white and your next salad is in for a treat.

Bake them

No, not on their own, silly.

When you’re planning your next date with your KitchenAid, skip the chocolate chips.

Chives have a mild flavor that pairs perfectly with cheddar cheese in scones, biscuits and muffins.

Grow them

Chives are easy to grow. They need rich, moist soil (read: water them) and copious amounts of sunlight.

Whether you have a backyard, a balcony the size of a bathroom stall or an ample windowsill (I have none of the above, thank you very much) you can probably grow your own plants.

Now, I prefer to let someone else handle the botany and I just do the eating, but head to your local gardening shop for supplies and more instructions.

Let them stand out

As an herb, chives rarely get the attention they deserve.

They play second chair in cream cheese, omelets and salad dressings but some quiche, fritatta and pasta concoctions need no more than a generous dash of chives, sharp cheese and salt and pepper to your liking.

Freeze them

If your chives thrive in the summer only, stock up while they’re ripe for the picking.

Lay chives on a long baking sheet in a single layer.

Freeze for 30 minutes and label the bag. No one wants to mix up their herbs in February and wind up with funky-flavored soups and stews.

Draw them on your arm

I could not write this post without telling you about my friend Dana’s beautiful tattoo.

It might not be the best way to use the herbs you bought at the grocery store but if you read Dana’s blog, you’ve no doubt been inspired by her cooking, photographs and even her newest addition: a chive blossom on her forearm.

Six Recipes with Chives

loaded baked potato soup

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Loaded Baked Potato Soup from In Good Taste

white bean artichoke dip

White Bean & Artichoke Spread from In Good Taste

leek_omelet1

Chives Omelet from Rasa Malaysia

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Chive & Parsley Butter from The Perfect Pantry

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Cheddar Chive Muffins from Sugarcrafter

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Cookin' Canuck
    September 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for the tips on freezing chives. I have loads of them in my backyard (believe me – I do not have a green thumb – they just flourish on their own) and I would love to have some available in the middle of winter.

  • Reply
    mandy
    September 3, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    I need to use chives more often. I have a lot of spices but am often at a loss of what to do with them. *hangs head in shame*

  • Reply
    Sues
    September 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I love this! And have a feeling if I was asked (out of the blue before caffeine) about chives, I would have responded, “uhhh I mean they’re kind of like an onion. But long and green?”

  • Reply
    Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
    September 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Laurie, the chive blossoms are edible, absolutely. But when you are growing chives, you must cut the blossoms off (and cut the chives down, periodically during the growing season, to just a few inches tall). This invigorates the plant and a new crop of blossoms will appear in a few weeks.

  • Reply
    Dana
    September 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Oh Maris. You sweet thing! Thank you so much for the shout-out. I am so bummed that you didn’t get to see the tattoo (and the chive plant!) in person. We really missed you last weekend. I love this post. Most people think of chives as the green things on top of baked potatoes and aren’t aware of their wonderful subtle flavor. Most people also aren’t aware that they even have a blossom or that the blossom is delicious.
    Anyway, my plant is not really blooming anymore and I know in a few short months, it won’t be giving me lovely green stalks either. I didn’t plant it but it flourishes in spite of how bad I am at gardening, so I know anyone can grow one! 🙂

  • Reply
    To Kiss the Cook
    September 3, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I know it’s easy to just make my own but the chive cream cheese at New York Bagel and Bialy on Touhy? That’s what dreams are made of. Love your list and miss your face!

  • Reply
    Laurie
    September 3, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I wish I read this yesterday. I just clipped off the flowers because since that’s what you’re supposed to do with basil, I thought that’s what I was supposed to do with chives. Oh well, now I know for the future.

  • Reply
    Daryl
    September 3, 2010 at 5:16 am

    This gives me a chance to vent on my least favorite spice. The little sticks of Rosemary are so annoying to me in food. I know, it’s probably just me!

  • Reply
    RebeccaC
    September 3, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Strangely just moments before i started reading this post my husband asked me what makes a shallot different than onion. Equally confusing.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    September 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Chives are absolutely one of my favorite herbs and I’m so happy you posted this! And that you gave a shout-out to Dana’s tattoo. I thought it was such an awesome idea when she wrote about it!

  • Reply
    Joy
    September 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I had tattoo envy when I saw Dana’s! We missed you last weekend. *hugs*
    I’ve to admit, I don’t cook as much with chives as I should. 🙂

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