When you want a note of onion flavor but not the whole song, or when you crave a pinch of garlic but not the punch, reach for fresh chives. Chives contribute a refined hit of onion and garlic flavor, and their green color adds lots of eye appeal. They’re not only easy to use and versatile, but they’re also easy to grow and will return year after year.
At the supermarket, look for chives with fresh, turgid stems. It doesn’t matter whether they’re thin or thick, just that they aren’t wan or droopy. At home, I like to stand them in a glass with an inch of water. You can keep them right on the counter for a couple of days. Or wrap the chives in a barely damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the fridge, where they’ll keep for several days.
I often use scissors to snip chives. To prevent the snippets from scattering, I cut them into a small, deep dish. If you chop chives on a cutting board, use a very sharp, thin-bladed knife so you don’t bruise the tender leaves.
Chive flowers are edible, with flavor slightly more pungent than the leaves, so if you grow your own, don’t overlook this pretty way to garnish a dish. Or add them to salads by snipping or pinching the individual florets from the cluster.
Chives are a classic with baked potatoes, and with good reason. Mildly pungent chives are fantastic with starchy foods (not only potatoes, but also rice, polenta, and couscous), and with butter and cultured dairy products. Chives are also great with fish and shellfish, eggs, and many vegetables, especially tomatoes and corn.
Grow your own chives—it’s easy
The best way to have chives on hand when you want them—and in abundance —is to grow them yourself. A 4-inch pot of chives is just a few dollars, and the investment will return year after year, getting bigger and better each time. Chives are undemanding. Plant them in moderately good soil in a sunny spot and water them when the soil is dry. Once established, they look after themselves. Chives are one of the first perennials to pop up in spring and they stay in good picking condition right through the first few frosts.
Chives brighten salads, sauces, dips, and more
• Add snipped chives to a plain biscuit dough.
• Shortly before serving, stir a generous helping of chives into a pot of tomato or corn soup.
• Stir snipped chives into a white wine pan sauce for fish, or any pan sauce.
• Snip a few strands of chives into a vinaigrette destined for a seafood salad or for fish.
• Add a generous hit of snipped chives to potato salad, rice salad, or bean salad.
• Snip chives into quiches, omelets, or scrambled eggs.
• Punch up a green salad by snipping chives right into the bowl before tossing with the dressing.
• Flavor a risotto with a purée of chives and arugula or other herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro, and dill.
• Use a generous measure of chives in a puréed herb mix in salsa verde or green mayonnaise.
• For a chivey dip, fold chopped chives into softened cream cheese, feta, or goat cheese, and thin with half-and-half. Season with black pepper.
• For smoked salmon, offer a mound of chopped chives alongside.
• Work chopped chives and a little salt into softened butter and then chill. Melt a pat of the chive butter on hot fish, steak, or chicken just before serving