Conscious Cook: Hope springs eternal

“What I am jazzed about is knowing that this is a new week, and Mother Nature is making new ingredients.” —Emeril Lagasse

So long as gardens continue to grow, then hope does indeed spring eternal. No matter how harsh the winter, or how miserable the storms of life, the re-emergence of new growth in spring will restore battered souls, refresh the body and invigorate the palate.

One of the first delicious signs of spring in the garden is the appearance of chives. The bright green slender shoots pop up inch by inch, beckoning cooks to snip them into sensational spring dishes. Chives have been utilized as both a culinary and medicinal ingredients since ancient times.

A member of the lily family, chives are part of a large genus of more than 500 species of perennials that contain bulbs or underground stems. Possessing a distinctive scent and flavor, chives are never overpowering, but do emit a slightly sharp, oniony essence. Use chives to add perfect pizzazz to salads, sauces, dips, and hors d’oeuvres. Minced chives mixed with organic butter makes a lovely spread for dark bread or bagels, particularly when partnered with silky smoked salmon, capers and a spritz of lemon.

The sprightly spark of fresh chives will enliven any potato dish, including roasted sweet or russet potatoes, potato latkes, scalloped potatoes, or potato soup. Chives are quite fabulous when added to fish preparations, such as roasted cod. Dumplings and pasta dishes can only be made more appealing with the addition of chives. A light spring appetizer can be made with crisp toasts, spread with a bit of light cream cheese and lovely green chive pesto. Or create a luscious spring dip using fresh chives and other herbs that will burst with the joy of a new season.

Chives, along with garlic, onions, scallions, and leeks, are also known as allium herbs. As with all the plants in the allium group, chives may be effective in reducing the risk of certain cancers. They may also be an effective deterrent to certain strains of salmonella. Chives are rich in cleansing and protective capability, as they are naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. They also contain valuable vitamin and mineral content, including vitamins A, K and C, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.  

Chives can be planted from seed, and are a wonderful crop for any beginning gardener. They are a perennial plant, blooming year after year, tolerating drought, and growing well in almost any type of soil. Their cheerful announcement that spring is here makes chives a naturally beautiful and nourishing part of preparing a delicious life.

Chive Dip

1 8-ounce container of low-fat or no-fat sour cream

½ cup well-washed and finely minced fresh chives

½ cup of a well-washed and finely minced mixture of fresh herbs (whichever you prefer, try parsley, tarragon, dill, basil, and/or cilantro)

2 tablespoons lemon zest (from an organic lemon)

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

Dash of cayenne pepper

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Mix first seven ingredients together in a bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt and a grinding of black pepper. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Let sit in refrigerator for several hours to let flavors meld.

Then transfer to a pretty serving dish and serve with steamed asparagus spears, red, yellow and purple pepper strips, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, and baby cauliflower florets.

For more information on Robin Glowa HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” go to www.theconsciouscook.net.