While Northern New Mexico is not yet safe from random freezes and rogue snows, the warmer temperatures and shifting light make us long for some early greens to …
While Northern New Mexico is not yet safe from random freezes and rogue snows, the warmer temperatures and shifting light make us long for some early greens to bring the color and flavor of spring to our plates.
Chives are usually the first herb to reach for the sun at this time of year. Give them a little water and the fine shoots will multiply, filling a pot or patch of ground. The smallest of the lily family that includes onions, leeks and scallions, chives are both delicate and hardy. Use them to add bright color and mild flavor to salads, or as a colorful, last-minute garnish for sour cream, asparagus, eggs, peas and potatoes. For the best results, snip them with scissors rather than cutting them with a knife.
Green garlic -- a younger, smaller version of what will eventually be a head of garlic -- and garlic scapes -- the flower stalks of garlic plants -- also appear in the garden and at farmers markets in early spring.
Green garlic comes in a range of sizes and shapes. It can be slender, with no developed bulb (like a green onion or scallion); have a small bulb with no clove separation (like a spring onion); or have a larger bulb with small, developing cloves. The best way to tell the difference between green garlic and its onion cousins is to look for the garlic's flatter, darker leaves and to smell the plant. Much milder than mature garlic, it can be used raw or cooked. Slice or mince the tender white and light green parts and add them to salads, dressings, stir-fries and frittatas. Toss the tougher dark green leaves into soup or stock.
Gardeners cut the stalks (or scapes) off hard-neck garlic plants before they flower to encourage better bulb growth. Once destined for the compost bin, the curling tendrils have developed their own following and can now be found at many farmers markets. Chop or mince the stalks to add a bit of crunch and mild garlic flavor to salads or stir-fries -- or immerse a few flowering strands in a bottle of white wine or champagne vinegar for a beautiful, delicately scented addition to your pantry.
Spanish-style green sauce
This bright green mojo verde can be made and enjoyed at any time of year, but it is especially delicious in spring and summer when the herbs are fresh from the garden or the farmers market. The recipe is flexible: you can use more or less garlic; add a pinch or two of dried red pepper flakes; and choose cilantro or parsley or a combination of the two. Make the sauce ahead and store it in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a week or more. Let it come to room temperature before using it to transform simply cooked chicken, beef, potatoes or eggs.
2 to 4 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced or grated on a microplane or rasp
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, parsley or a combination (about 1 to 1½ packed cups)
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ to ¾ tsp kosher salt
½ to 1 cup olive oil
4 to 6 Tbs water, as needed
1 to 2 tsp Spanish sherry vinegar, more to taste
Remove thick herb stems. Put greens, cumin and minimum amount of salt in blender or food processor and grind to a thick paste. (You may need to add some of the water to process the greens.) With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil. Add more water to thin the sauce to a pourable consistency. Add vinegar, mix, taste and add more salt or vinegar if needed.
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