That’s how asparagus, peas and strawberries turned into scallions, garlic chives and flower buds, plus fresh chickpeas still in their pods, an ingredient I had never seen or cooked.
My first thought for the chive buds was a crudo (that’s the trendy word that food folk like to use for seviche) of thinly sliced sea scallops strewn with the chive flower buds and garnished with chopped garlic chives. But once I saw a store display piled with fresh chickpea pods and tasted some, I scrapped the crudo idea. The peas tasted so springlike and delicate, I had to use them. The approach? Simple. A colorful, lightly dressed spring salad.
I cut carrots into pieces about the size of the peas. I liked the notion of peas and carrots, plus I suspected they would cook in the same amount of time. Testing a few of each separately and timing the outcome confirmed I was right. Being able to cook the two vegetables together saved a step; always a good thing. I added radishes, also cut into pea-size pieces, for their seasonality, texture and bright red color. The flower buds, with an inch of chive still attached, would add texture, a surprise element and bold onion flavor with garlic notes. Chunks of feta cheese for saltiness and volume, some good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar (it is light and has sugar in it) and a bit of thyme for an herbal quality made the salad perfect for a first course.
The other chives, with tender, grasslike leaves and a distinct garlic flavor (it makes sense; garlic is a member of the onion genus, allium), I intended to simply stir-fry as a side dish seasoned, perhaps, with a bit of sesame oil and chili paste. But I found the greens stringy, like ramps, and therefore unpleasant. Instead, I turned them into an assertively green chilled soup.
A shrewd cook seizes on happenstance. The idea of enhancing the flavor of those chives with an element of smoke came to mind only because I had on hand some smoked chicken stock, the bounty from a drip pan underneath a Whitmore Farm chicken cooked on a previous night. Why not, I figured. It was liquid gold with an extra flavor dimension.
The greens went into a pot with that stock, a bit of salt and some cream, taking only minutes to cook to maintain brightness. Then they went into a blender with some instant potato flakes. Chefs and cooks who look to eliminate dairy or gluten know that these dehydrated bits come in handy as a thickener; they don’t become gluey, and they offer control. Just add more if the soup is too thin.
Raw garlic cloves added to the puree proved too strong; the liquid wasn’t hot enough to cook the bitterness out of them. So on a second attempt, I added the garlic to the soup pot instead. (Even as I write this, I’m still not sure the garlic is necessary. I was going for intensity, like adding anise seed to fennel soup.) To preserve the soup’s richness and provide a point at which the soup could be frozen, I decided to add the cream after the straining step, because that kind of dairy doesn’t freeze well. It breaks.