Discovery: Chinese Chives!

Now that spring has arrived (finally!!) and thoughts of ramps have been dancing in my head, I've been obsessively craving some oniony/grassy goodness (I really should've gone to the Union Square Greenmarket this morning, but I still have a feeling the extended cold weather this year means it's still too early for ramps...and I don't want to wait in a long line of desperate people). So a few days ago, when I was killing time in a Chinatown vegetable market, I spied some beautiful Chinese chives. They're really inexpensive (a fraction of the price of the oh-so-hip ramps) and easy to use, so I thought I'd buy a bunch...a very, very large bunch...

Why haven't I played with these beauties before? If you're comparing them to ramps (which I am...) they're obviously more chivy and slightly less grassy, but the flavor's wonderful. They're simple to use in stir-fry: I've made a fabulous pseudo cold sesame noodle using the Chinese chives, a little almond butter, the Sichuan chili paste I discovered, and soy sauce (the version pictured has a little beef, too). Stir-fry everything over medium-low heat until the chives wilt, and it's a wonderful, eye-opening dish.

I had so many chives--I'd ended up with about two pounds--so I decided I'd try to make a purée similar to what I'd done with ramps last year. I roughly chopped about a pound of the chives, put them in the processor, added a generous pinch of salt and about a quarter-cup or so of olive oil, and blended everything together. Easy. It's not as sweet as the ramp pesto (believe it or not, I still have some scrapings in the bottom of the jar from last spring!), but I think it's going to be as incredibly useful. Pizza, pasta, stir fry, crepes...who knows?!

Turns out Chinese chives are a wonderful, wonderful discovery. I'll be less desperate for ramps, will be able to emulate a similar flavor year-round, and--most importantly for my friends--I'll be more willing to share the goodness!

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