By Lauren Chattman
I nearly had an accident on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, jerking sharply to the left and screeching to an abrupt halt at the side of the road, when I saw Under the Willow’s new sign advertising scallions. That’s how eager I was to buy a local vegetable as soon as it was pulled from the ground. Are scallions worth this kind of excitement? They are if they’re as fresh as the bunch I bought, and if they’re used to their best advantage. Also worth it: Spring onions, green garlic, and garlic scapes, all coming into season right about now.
To the untrained eye, these four items can be difficult to distinguish from each other. Scallions (also called green onions) are a species of onion that stays small. You know you are looking at scallions if the white part near the roots is as narrow as the light green and green parts. They are the mildest of all onions. Spring onions look just like scallions, but with rounded, well-defined little bulbs. They are simply immature onions, harvested before they are fully grown. A little more assertive than scallions, but mild in comparison to mature onions, they’ve become popular enough that many farmers plant them for the express purpose of a late Spring harvest.
Green garlic is immature garlic. Tender and juicy, it can be used fresh (mature garlic bulbs must be dried for several weeks until their outer skins turn papery). With its white bulb and green stem, it looks a lot like a scallion. Garlic scapes, which resemble flower stems and sometimes have unopened buds attached, are the flower shoots of garlic bulbs. Both green garlic and garlic scapes have a gentle garlic flavor.
The differences between these items are less important than their similarities: Trimmed and finely chopped, they can all be used as you would use fresh herbs, to add flavor to salads, dips, dressings, and so many other dishes when other local vegetables are scarce.
At home with my scallions, I thought about how to use them in a way that would take advantage of their pretty color and crisp texture as well as their sweet and mildly pungent flavor. Stirring them into biscuit dough was just the thing. I served my fluffy, oniony biscuits with sautéed chicken breasts in lemon sauce and steamed spinach sprinkled with bacon bits. It was just the kind of dinner I like to eat at this time of year, satisfying but not heavy.
Buttermilk Biscuits with Scallions or Green Garlic
Makes about ten 3-inch biscuits
Feel free to substitute 3 or 4 Spring onions, 3 bulbs (with some light green stems) of green garlic, or 2 trimmed garlic scapes for the scallionshere. For the lightest, highest rising biscuits, be sure to chill your butter ahead of time, to handle the dough as gently and quickly as possible, and to bake your biscuits in a very hot oven.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk, plus 1 or 2 tablespoons more if necessary
6 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut butter into ¼-inch dice. Place it in a small bowl and set it in freezer while you gather the rest of your ingredients.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add chilled fat and, with an electric mixer, mix on low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk and scallions or green garlic with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to form clumps. Add a tablespoon or two more of buttermilk if the mixture is too dry.
3. Turn clumps out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead once or twice until the dough comes together. With one or two passes of a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll dough out ½-inch thick. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter in some flour and cut as many biscuits as you can from the dough. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet. Gently pat scraps together and cut out more biscuits with remaining dough.
4. Bake biscuits until risen and are light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes on a wire rack and serve warm.