Garlic Scapes

In Making Food on July 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Week 20
Garlic Scapes

Spell-check adamantly does not know know what scapes are; it suggested scopes, capes, scamps, scrapes, spaces and escapes, but denied that scapes even exist.

I didn’t know what scapes were either, until I was walking through the farmers’ market and saw these crazy green alien loopy things hanging out on a table at the Nichols Farm stand:

They looked ridiculous and somehow outer-spacey; I had to buy them, even though I had absolutely no idea what they were, what they’d taste like, or how you were supposed to prepare them. (I also was too shy/embarrassed/stubborn to ask the guys at the stand, even though this is almost certainly the best and easiest way to get advice on the produce you’re buying. Don’t be like me.) I figured I’d just ask Wikipedia; that guy knows everything.

When garlic bulbs start to grow, they force shoots up from underground; the shoots are super-green, long, flexible, and pencil-thin. If left alone, the bulbs’ growth rate will slow and the stalks will turn hard, white and garlic-peel-papery; picture a garlic braid and you’ll get the idea. Trimming the shoots while they’re still young and flexible, however, will allow the bulbs to keep growing underground — and will also yield an awesome, edible vegetable with myriad uses.

The scapes can be eaten either raw or cooked; they’ve got a gentle, toned-down, creamy garlic flavor with none of raw garlic’s sting or stink. You can cut them into one- to two-inch lengths and treat them as you would fresh asparagus or green beans; they’re fantastic in stir-fries, risottos or omelets.

The herby-and-just-barely-garlicky taste, though, made me think of pesto. When I checked the pantry, I had a ton of walnuts and olive oil, plus some pecorino romano in the fridge, so scape pesto was in the cards.

A couple of permissive words about pesto:

In general, pestos call for an herb, a nut, an oil, and an acid, and sometimes cheese and/or garlic. But they’re super-flexible, and common sense and thriftiness should prevail. Nuts can be substituted pretty much at will — i.e., if you don’t have (or can’t afford now-insanely-expensive) pinenuts, use almonds or walnuts instead. If you don’t have any basil, but have got a ton of cilantro lying around, use what you’ve got. Maybe cilantro would like lime juice better than lemon; maybe it wants a dash of hot sauce, too. If you don’t like cheese, leave it out. Don’t be constrained by pesto tyranny.

I cut my garlic scapes into one-inch lengths, and tossed them into the blender with a handful of walnuts, about a half-cup of shredded pecorino romano, a dash of lemon juice, and a healthy dose of olive oil, then hit go.

You know how you’re pureeing something — pesto, a smoothie, soup, whatever — in the blender and it stops moving? Add more liquid. My pesto got stuck, so I added more olive oil in little bursts until I got uncomfortable adding any more, and then I added water instead. It sounds weird, but if you’re going to cook, this is exactly how you should be approaching things. Even when you’re following a recipe, if something doesn’t look or sound right, go with your gut. I’ve ruined many a dish by adding something I was pretty sure wasn’t necessary, or to my taste, but the recipe said to add it, so I did. Again, don’t be like me.

Once you’ve got the consistency you like, check for seasoning; add salt, pepper, and — if necessary — a bit more acid.

Toss the pesto with pasta, spread it on bread, brush it on fish or shrimp, or thin it with more oil to make a dipping sauce. Or — and this is something I highly recommend — use it instead of red sauce on pizza. We made two awesome garlic-scape-pesto-based pizzas: one with chicken, ricotta, roasted herbed tomatoes and wilted spinach; the other with turkey sausage, red onion, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella. We then forgot to take a picture of the former, and we were so hungry we pulled the latter out of the oven before it got done the way I like it (i.e, with browned crispy cheese all over, not just around the edges):

A little of this scape pesto goes a long way, so if you’ve got leftovers, just throw it into the freezer. I can’t wait to pull it out in the middle of February when we’re jonesing for some chlorophyll and summery flavors.

  1. yum that looks really good. We got scapes from the Farmers Market one time for free — they just gave them to us to try. They were great.

  2. I just got a bunch of scapes and had no idea how to deal with them. Thanks for the great direction!

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