Look, I don’t know what happened to the other herb plants.
I bought the cute herb ladder at Ikea, assembled it, propped it up against the porch screen, placed little pots of cilantro and mint and basil in the small white baskets. My heart knew this was no way to sustain plant life. But my Pinterest-addled brain had hope.
After years of not being able to kill the abundant rosemary plant in our backyard, and a persistent basil plant before that, I was confident in my herb-growing abilities. But within weeks, the plants had shriveled up and turned brown. The twee white pots that came with the ladder were the problem; without holes in the bottom, the water didn’t have anywhere to go, and the poor cilantro probably drowned.
To flourish, the herbs would need more room. It was time to clear out our garden bed, up until now home to that rosemary plant and a ton of scallions.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with those scallions. They are quite sturdy, so they’re easy to grow. And these in particular shot up and grew wild, about six of them that got to be three or four times the size of the ones you buy in the grocery store.
But merely snipping off the green tops never resulted in much flavor. To get the most out of these scallions, I’d have to yank them out of the ground and get to the oniony white bottoms. To make way for some more delicate herbs — cilantro, parsley, mint and basil — I uprooted all but two scallions, curious what the full plant would taste like.
After washing off the dirt and peeling off the wilted outer layers, I placed the scallions on my cutting board and marveled at their vibrancy, size and texture. The white bottom root part was about the diameter of a quarter, the green tops thick and fibrous. My eyes teared up as I was cutting them, something that happens with regular onions but never the more demure scallion.
They were surprisingly potent not only in aroma but also in taste, the delicate onion flavor of a scallion there but more concentrated and pungent.
“Soup!” was my first thought.
“Dip!” was my second.
Scallions carry themselves very well in either. For a dip, try mixing equal parts ricotta cheese and Greek yogurt or sour cream, then stirring in a large handful of scallions and seasoning with salt and pepper. It evokes a scallion cream cheese on a bagel, even if you serve it with vegetables.
One of my favorite ways to eat scallions is to grill or broil whole scallions in the oven until they are nice and soft and sort of charred. Or try cutting them into 1-inch pieces then layering the pieces on skewers between steak or chicken. Grill or cook in a cast-iron skillet until the meat is cooked through.
A flavorful broth-based soup is also ideal for this hearty allium, the broth flavored by cooking the white parts of the scallion with ginger and garlic. The green parts of the scallion could be used as garnish.
Once you’ve built the broth, you could add any number of things: shredded pork, seared steak, sliced carrots, water chestnuts, spinach or kale. I went with some leftover chicken and carrots, plus almonds for garnish.
That brings me to these soft and chewy and oniony pull-apart rolls, which would go great with your soup. I’m bringing them to a potluck this weekend. And I’m thanking my long-neglected scallion plants for making it happen.
Scallion Pull-Apart Bread
For the dough:
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
¾ cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
For the filling:
Sesame oil, ¼ cup
6 to 8 scallions, finely chopped (about 1 cup), plus more for garnish
Red pepper flakes
1 large egg
Make the dough: In a glass measuring cup, combine the yeast, honey and warm water. Let stand until it foams, about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir in the yeast mixture and the oil and mix to combine. Knead for at least 7 minutes, until smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Make the filling: Brush an 8-inch round cake pan with a thin layer of sesame oil.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a long rectangle that’s about 24 inches by 9 inches. Brush the dough with a thin layer of sesame oil and sprinkle with the scallions, a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Roll the long side of the dough up and brush the outside with more sesame oil. Cut the roll into 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces and arrange the pieces cut side up in the cake pan.
Cover and let rise for 30 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and a bit more salt. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top begins to brown.
Source: Adapted from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly