This month's theme is Bake with Spring Produce, hosted by Ammie of Adventures in my Kitchen. I get excited for spring produce, because it finally means that one of my favorite vegetables, asparagus, is around again. Unfortunately for this bake along, I always steam it and gobble it up (plain) too fast to ever put it in any baked good. My new favorite spring veggie is fiddleheads. I finally tracked down some last year at the Coop in Lebanon, NH and we sauteed them with balsamic vinegar. They were... just ok. Not great. This year I prepared them much more simply and they were amazing. New favorite veggie! I parboiled them for 5-6 minutes, while sauteing some minced garlic in butter with salt in a pan, and then drained the fiddleheads and tossed them in, stirred around for a few minutes, and that was it. Amazing. They suck up all the buttery garlic flavor the way mushrooms do. It's just too bad we can only get fiddleheads for a couple weeks a year! I may start growing ferns just to have some fiddleheads...
Anyway, enough with steaming and sauteing, let's bake something.
My area is a little tricky for spring produce. The grocery store will carry it if it's available, but I don't think they put much effort into obtaining local stuff. We've again opted out of the CSA (sigh! hopefully next summer), which doesn't start til June anyway. We have a farmer's market at the end of our street, but none of the farmer's markets around here start until the 3rd week of June. My mom mentioned going to the one across from her office this week and I was instantly jealous. :-/ So where to get the produce?
Here. Friends, this is my garden. Further to the left is my giant patch of pachysandra, and in the picture you can see my weeds, my little garlic plant and my beautiful chives. These are all things that require no effort on my part, because I'm a terrible gardener. Although the other day Clint and I were checking out the big empty area where our arbor vitae used to be and we kind of got the idea to put a box garden in there... ideas are not actions though, so we'll see. Fortunately, I have many gardener friends to turn to for advice. So maybe one day, my chives won't be the pride of my garden- although honestly, I grew a mean crop of hostas. Seriously. And we have some nice Lily of the Valley, and our mulberry tree seems to be in good form this year.
So I turned to my local, fresh, spring produce chives to help me out. I used them in one of my new favorite recipes, Dorie Greenspan's Cheese and Chive bread. The first time I made this, I used Penzey's sage, because it was during the winter. But now I have all these chives at my disposal! (as well as 2 other chive plants in pots on the porch).
Savory Cheese and Chive Bread
recipe from Dorie Greenspan, in Around My French Table
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1T baking powder
1/2-1t salt (depending on what kind of cheese you're using, and this time, I only used a pinch- the people I baked this for are all trying to cut down on salt in their diet)
1/4t white pepper (couldn't find it in the baggies-of-spices bowl (I need more spice jars! I buy all my spices in bulk), so I used freshly ground black pepper)
1/3 cup milk (Dorie says whole, I use skim)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping cup grated cheese (gruyere, cheddar, etc)
1/3 to 1/2 cup of cheese chunks (gruyere, cheddar, etc)
1/2 cup minced chives (or other herbs)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I omitted- I'm funny about nuts, I only like them in sweet things)
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Beat the eggs together until frothy, about a minute. Whisk in the milk and olive oil and beat til combined, then gently stir in the dry ingredient mixture and stir until just barely combined. Be gentle! Fold in the cheeses and herbs and nuts.
Bake in a greased 9x5 loaf pan at 350F fo 35-45 minutes, until it's just beginning to brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Wait until cooled to slice! I learned the hard way that this'll fall apart if you're not patient in your slicing.
For this loaf, I used half sharp cheddar and half chipotle cheddar (both Cabot). Normally I get the Cabot sharp cheddar in the 3lb block and keep it on hand- it's the favorite hor d'ouerve for when my parents visit! But this time I was running low so I added in some of the 8oz block of chipotle cheddar Clint and I bought when we went cheese and wine tasting in Quechee, VT. The bread doesn't really have any of the spice of the chipotle cheddar, but it has the smokiness. I have to remember this cheese combination! The chive flavor isn't a star in this bread, but it's a nice compliment to the cheeses, and it makes it look more appetizing than when I used dried sage.
This is my favorite recipe now for when I need to bring a room temperature savory appetizer- for DAR meetings, our choir's Wine Tasting fundraiser, for picnics. It's lovely and cheesy and really easy!
Oh here's Clint's idea of how best to eat this bread- with my delicious turkey burgers. I might need to make this recipe into a scone-like bun recipe next!