Since returning to California this past week, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about our trip back to Italy. Whether enjoying time with family, hiking in my beloved mountains or catching up with friends, it feels a little like turning the clock back to my happy childhood. Of the many exciting things we did, our annual ritual visit to our “back-to-basics” hut high up at 7,000 feet was among the best. A wooden stove, a few pots and pans and the most majestic view are enough to turn every day into a unique and memorable experience. Apart from milk and butter provided by three cows who graze the steep hills surrounding the neighboring farmer’s hut, we have to carry up everything we need for nourishment. That is how we learn to make the most with what little we have. One of our most successful menu items, apart from crêpes and buckwheat riebel, are the impossibly simple but unbelievably delicious butter and chive sandwiches. Come and cook with us!
Chives belong to the allium family and are widely used in European kitchens. Whether added to a fresh green salad, an omelette, fish or soups, a pinch of chives adds a nice dimension to many a dish. They grow year-round (although the ones on my terrace don’t seem to understand this yet) and while their medicinal properties are similar to garlic they are only used to a limited extent, probably because their effects are much weaker than onions, for instance. Generally speaking, chives are rich in vitamin A and C as well as calcium and iron although given that we never consume them as a main dish, it is not for their health benefits that we eat them.
Back here in Northern California, I have been working hard to grow a decent batch of chives on our terrace, but so far to no avail. Luckily, when it comes to my mom’s garden, chives are plentiful and always ready to be harvested. Finely minced and packed into a sealable container, they are ready for the trip up to the hut. A cup or so will last you a long time, as long as butter and bread are in ample supply. Of course, you can make the little sandwiches ahead for everyone to enjoy, but it’s much more fun to let the assiduous little hands of my boys do the work. It’s as easy as pressing the freshly buttered bread slices – butter-side down – into a dish filled with finely minced chives which will stick to the butter like a green coat of fresh grass. Chive sandwiches should not be limited to a snack or a side. In fact, my aunt makes these her breakfast of choice! It’s easy to make, tastes irresistibly good and makes for a great addition to any meal. Give it a try and let us know what you think. Come and cook with us!