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Go away. After seven years in Vermont, this was the spring that finally caused me to break down and buy myself a pair of muck boots. Shortly after, during a brief reprieve from the rain, I splattered through my swamp of a yard to see if I’d be able to plant the garden or just have to settle for a mud pit. To my surprise, there was already something growing — chives.

So what if the new raised beds aren’t built, trellis fencing is lying about and the forecast is calling for nothing but more wet weather? Despite all of this, the chives had returned and there was hope. These past six months might as well have been six years of winter.

It’s funny what you can learn to appreciate. By midsummer, I’ll probably only think of the chives on occasion, and even then, use them mostly as an afterthought to garnish something like roasted potatoes. Now, though, they must be more than a garnish.

If you don’t have chives in your yard, just find someone who does and dig up a few for yourself. They slowly spread, and come back every year. My batch came from my grandmother’s backyard in Connecticut several years ago. The purple chive flowers that may one day bloom, are also edible and may be used in addition to or in place of chives in salads and garnishes.

Chives have a mild onion flavor and delicate nature that make them ideal for adding a sense of savory to a light and fluffy omelet. Yet, I’m really just not an omelet guy. And is breakfast even worthy enough for my first harvest of the season? I don’t think so. Then dinner it must be.

With salmon filets in the fridge, I thought of making a chive sauce with butter and lemon zest. But that sounded a little boring. Perhaps a chive and breadcrumb crusted salmon. That sounded better. Except, I was out of breadcrumbs and wasn’t going to entertain the thought of going back out to the store. Weekends at the grocery store are one of my least favorite places.

Instead, I improvised and decided to make a crust using oats. It’s not that I was too lazy to make fresh breadcrumbs. I didn’t have bread either. I usually don’t. Oats, though, I always have. And hey, they’re healthier and gluten-free, if that’s something you’re worried about.

Oats and fish aren’t a common pairing, but it’s not totally nuts. With a few pulses in the food processor, whole rolled oats become crumbly and better suited to stick together as a crust. They don’t have much flavor of their own and easily take on whatever they’re paired up with. Just like with oatmeal, it’s the fruit, nuts, sweetener and spices that make it interesting. Same concept with making an oat topping for a filet of fish.

I chopped up a small bunch of the chives, mixed them in with the oats, along with lemon zest, Dijon mustard, a little oil, and an egg. After seasoning the salmon and coating with more mustard, I divided the mixture among my salmon filets then roasted them in the oven. I finished with a few minutes under the broiler to brown, and that was it.

Roasting salmon is my favorite way to cook the fish. There’s no need to flip and it comes out perfectly every time. Look for fresh salmon that wasn’t frozen for the best results. Even better, look for wild-caught as opposed to farm raised. It’s a healthier and more sustainable option.

What’s next on the menu for chives? I’m thinking of loading them into an egg salad sandwich. But first, I’ll need bread.

Chive, lemon and oat crusted salmon

Serves 4

  • 4 salmon filets, about ¼ pound each
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel, then let them come to room temperature. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, skin side down. Sprinkle the filets with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and brush with half of the mustard. Set aside.

If using rolled oats, run them through a food processor for a rough chop. If you have quick oats, they’re already chopped and good to go. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the oats with two tablespoons of the chives, the zest from the lemon, the olive oil, the egg, and the remaining mustard and salt. Stir until well combined.

Spread the oat mixture evenly over the top of the four salmon filets. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 12 minutes. Move the tray to the top rack and turn on the broiler. Broil the salmon until the topping is lightly browned, about three minutes.

Serve the salmon garnished with the remaining chopped chives and slices of lemon.

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