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A&E >  Food

Homegrown herbs add fresh, inexpensive flavor

Chive, an easy-to-grow perennial, anchors  Creamy Chive Salad Dressing, which keeps in the fridge   up to five days. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Chive, an easy-to-grow perennial, anchors Creamy Chive Salad Dressing, which keeps in the fridge up to five days. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jim Romanoff Associated Press

When it comes to cutting the fat in favorite recipes, it’s vital to replace the flavor that gets lost with it.

Fresh herbs are some of the most versatile flavor boosters, and when they come from your own kitchen garden, they are both convenient and inexpensive.

Seeds for annual herbs – those that grow for only one season, such as cilantro, parsley, basil and chervil – cost just a few dollars per package, but yield a bounty of herbs that would cost a considerable amount at the market.

Perennials, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, tarragon and sage, grow back season after season and can be started from seed or purchased, inexpensively, as small plants.

Of course, you don’t have to limit an herb garden to warmer weather. A countertop herb collection in your kitchen is both decorative and an excellent way to have fresh herbs on hand year-round.

Delicately flavored, oniony, chives are one of the best indoor and outdoor herbs. In the garden, they grow like weeds in clumps that come back and spread each year. They can be started from seed, or a large clump can be divided and replanted or potted for indoor use.

Both the hollow, green chives as well as their lavender flowers are edible. The flowers can be broken up into tiny florets and sprinkled on salads or other dishes as a flavorful garnish.

Use chives to brighten up a baked potato, scrambled eggs, your favorite biscuit recipe, or even to improve the flavor of fat-free cream cheese.

Make a compound butter by combining chopped chives with a mixture of two parts softened butter to one part extra-virgin olive oil. The olive oil helps to balance the saturated fats of the butter with healthier monounsaturated fats.

This creamy chive dressing has a base of tangy, nonfat buttermilk and reduced-fat mayonnaise that can be used to create many kinds of healthy but rich-tasting dressings. Keep the dressing in a covered container, in the refrigerator, for up to five days.

Creamy Chive Salad Dressing

3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, chives, parsley, lemon juice and mustard. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 30 calories; 13 calories from fat; 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 2 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams carbohydrate; 1 grams protein; 0 grams fiber; 178 milligrams sodium.

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