Running into Chive Flowers at the Park Slope farmer’s market last Saturday was like greeting a long-awaited friend. Every year in late May, I expect to see her spiky lavender hat atop her long spindly green stem, waving to me in the gentle breeze. At that moment, for I am never sure exactly when she will arrive, I smile inside and sometimes outside, too. I buy a big bunch of chive flowers in anticipation of one of my favorite warm-weather soups: Cauliflower Vichyssoise with Chive Flowers (and parsley oil). Yet despite the lack of warmth, or sun, I still run to the store to buy a large cauliflower, vibrant flat-leaf parsley, leeks and light cream, to make a radically simple soup for supper. You may be astounded to know that the beautiful soup in the photo below is made with only six ingredients. Four for the soup; two for the parsley oil. This is the supreme example of what radical simplicity in cooking means: “When things taste of themselves,” said the great French gastronome Curnonsky. It is the philosophy that underscores each dish in Radically Simple — and all in 140 words or less.
Chives are the only species of allium native to both the New and the Old World. Its name comes from the French word cive, from cepa, the Latin word for onion. I’m smiling now, too, thinking of how once upon a time, a baked potato with sour cream and chives was the height of sophistication for me as a child. Having recently seen the remarkable Werner Herzog film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about cave paintings dating back 32,000 years in France, makes the 5,000 year old use of chives seem rather modern. Nonetheless, they have been deployed as both food and medicine since then. You will find much chatter and many good ideas for cooking with chives and chive flowers at seriouseats.com. In the following soup, which is classically made from potatoes and leeks, both the chive leaves (straws) are used and the edible flowers pulled apart. It is a dish of many virtues and healthy as can be.
Cauliflower Vichyssoise with Chive Flowers (adapted from Radically Simple)
This more healthful riff on classic vichyssoise is still luxuriously suave. For a stunning presentation, blanch a bunch of parsley and puree in a blender with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup water and salt; add a swirl to each serving to dance on the white velvet background.
2-1/2 pound cauliflower, or 1-3/4 pounds florets
2 large leeks
1 cup light cream
1 bunch chives with chive flowers
Break the cauliflower into small pieces and put in a 4-quart pot. Add 5 cups water (water will not cover the cauliflower) and 2 teaspoons salt. Chop the white parts of the leeks to get 1-1/2 cups. Wash well; add to the pot. Bring to a rapid boil; reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 24 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. In 2 batches, puree in a food processor until ultra smooth, adding 1/2 cup cream to each batch. Transfer to a bowl; add salt and pepper. Cover; refrigerate until very cold. Add water or additional cream if too thick. Garnish with chopped chives and flowers, and optional parsley oil. Serves 6