Ron Fortier from Ellsworth recently wrote to me, “With the present stay-at-home situation, I have been delegated as chief cook. I’m rapidly running out of comfort food ideas. Please, if you have any fresh ideas, please share, lest I am forced to eat them lobstah. Don’t want to take them away from the prisoners and the poor.”
Dear Ron: You’re saved. The lobsters aren’t crawling yet, but the herbs have started to grow.
Since recorded history, humans have been growing and using herbs, for medicinal purposes, to ward off insects (and evil spirits), for their pleasant fragrance, and to improve the flavor of food. While advances in technology and communication have brought the world to our doorstep, we face a critical need to make the earth a more sustainable place. There has never been a better time to grow herbs.
Herbs are plants whose roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds are used in some form and they grow in the temperate zone. Perennial herbs like chives, sage, lovage and mint, once happily planted, will cheerfully return every spring. Tender herbs; basil, dill, summer savory and cilantro, won’t survive a frost, and need to cultivated every year.
One of my most favorite spring herbs is chives. The cheerful, slender green and hollow shoots of “grass” start to appear once the soil in the ground has warmed. Soon, the edges of my herb garden are decorated with clumps of chives blossoming with bright purple and pink bonbons.
Chives are a familiar seasoning to most of us. Their mild, onion flavor adds a tasty dimension to salads, dressings and marinades, even eggs. They’re delicious when added to cooked dishes like soups, but be sure to add them toward the end of the cooking time to retain their flavor. Nutritionally speaking, chives are a good source of Vitamin A, and a fair source of potassium and calcium.
I first tasted Lemon Chive Vinaigrette on a lobster and white bean salad. The combination of zesty citrus with mild onion complimented the lobster perfectly, and made the beans sing. Then I tried the dressing on a simple shredded carrot salad. It was irresistible!
A jar of Lemon Chive Vinaigrette in the refrigerator is also handy as a marinade. Halibut steaks, chicken breast, even asparagus marinated in this bright tasting sauce will be delicious hot off the grill. When your chive plants start to blossom, the flowers can be added to salads, or used to garnish plates. Here in Maine, chives (not lobstah), welcome the start of delicious, summer eating.
CARROT & CRANBERRY SALAD WITH LEMON CHIVE VINAIGRETTE
LEMON CHIVE VINAIGRETTE:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon or grainy mustard
- ½ cup finely chopped chives (or other fresh herbs)
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
CARROT & CRANBERRY SALAD
- 1 pound carrots peeled and shredded, about 4 cups total
- ½ cup dried cranberries plumped in hot water if needed
- ½ cup Lemon Chive Vinaigrette
- Fresh greens or sprouts for serving - optional
- Fresh flowers for garnish (marigolds, nasturtiums) - optional
CARROT & CRANBERRY SALAD WITH LEMON CHIVE VINAIGRETTE:
- Gather all of your ingredients.
TO PREPARE THE LEMON CHIVE VINAIGRETTE:
- Squeeze the lemon and finely chop the fresh herbs.
- Add the olive oil, mustard and chopped chives to a stainless steel bowl and vigorously whisk together.
- Add the lemon juice and vinegar and whisk until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- Store Lemon Chive Vinaigrette in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup dressing.
TO PREPARE THE SALAD:
- Peel the carrots. Using a food processor or grater, shred the carrots. You should have about 4 cups shredded carrots. Add to a large bowl.
- If needed, pour some hot water over the dried cranberries to plump them. Drain the water and add the cranberries to the carrots.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir well. For best flavor, refrigerate salad for 2 hours or more for the flavors to marry.
- Allow salad to come to room temperature. Serve on a bed of fresh greens or sprouts and garnish with flower petals.