Saturday, June 25, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto

I am forty years old and I have a confession to make.

I just this summer found out what a garlic scape is.

It's true. I'd like to think I'm not the very last person on earth who knew what a garlic scape is, but it might not be the case (can anybody out there help me?!). I look on the web now and they're everywhere. I flip through my seed catalog and pictures of them are in there too, I just never noticed. They're at the farmer's market and they're even on Facebook.

Clearly, I've been living under a rock.

But now that I'm out, I'm trying to make short order of making up for lost time!
Last weekend my mother mentioned to me that it was time to cut the scapes from their garlic.

They've probably told me this also each of the last few years also, but I never heard. Or paid attention. Or something. Anyway, she wanted to know if I wanted them.

She originally thought she'd motivate to do something with them, but decided that in reality, it wasn't going to happen. She'd talked with some people at the market who said they were actually quite tasty and my mom thought I might like to try them instead.

Thank goodness I was actually listening this year.  These things are awesome! Not just cool to look at, but fresh, green, garlicy, lively tasting love. How have I lived this long without you, dear beautiful scape?

Here's the story as I know it. There are three main types of garlic - elephant, softneck and hardneck. The elephant variety is actually a different family all together, but is the one with the huge heads, and it tends to be very mild flavored. I don't generally use it at all, despite the temptation of its namesake-sized cloves.

Softneck garlic is the most common commercially grown garlic, and the kind you traditionally see in the markets "braided" together into a beautiful and artsy strand. It tends to have more skins surrounding the head, stores very well, has smaller cloves, and it often grown in warmer climates (southern US, Mexico, South-Western Europe).

Hardneck garlic doesn't store as well, but tends to be the most flavorful, with fewer, larger bulbs than the softneck varieties. It grows a woody stalk or a scape, out of the center of the head of garlic, which comes up and curls out through the greens. If left to grow, a sort of seed head starts to form part way down the scape (thought it's not technically either a seed head or a flower), and it's generally thought that this takes energy away from the growing of the bulb - the part that you want eat. So, most growers remove the scape, right around this time of year.

Luckily, it's a win-win situation for the garlic, and the garlic grower, as, at least for those of us who love garlic, scapes are tasty little treats in and of themselves. They can be eaten fresh (I've chopped and added them to salad or sprinkled them on cream cheese with a bagel), or lightly sautéed (they were fantastic cooked into a spinach frittatta tonight for dinner). They store well, and are easy to clean and use. The flavor is somewhat milder than garlic, but the same taste is decidedly there, with a little bit of "green" added in, if you can imagine what that color tastes like.

I plan to make up some dip of scapes combined and cannellini beans (to which I'll also probably add feta), and I've heard that they make a mean butter for toasted bread -- I'll let you know how both those come out, but I'll give you a hit about the other thing I've done with them so far, and it has to do with pasta.

I've said it before and I'll say it again now: how can you go wrong???

Garlic Scape Pesto
adapted from Dorie Greenspan 

10* garlic scapes, cleaned and tough ends removed, then diced
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/3 cup nuts**, toasted if desired
sea salt to taste
lemon to taste
about 1/2 cup or so olive oil***

Combine scapes and nuts in food processor. Blend until finely chopped. Add cheese, salt and lemon, then drizzle in oil with blades turning until you have the desired consistency.
Eat immediately (on hot or cold pasta, with tomatoes and/or lightly steamed asparagus, spread on toast, etc).
I assume that like basil pesto, if sealed properly it will also freeze well, or at least I hope so!

* In my limited experience, I found when chopped into roughly 1/2 inch pieces, this was about a cup and a half of the greens
** I tried this recipe with almonds (toasted), walnuts (toasted) and pistachios (not toasted). All were excellent, but if I had to chose a favorite, it was (surprisingly) the walnut version. I'm sure it would also be excellent with pine nuts (toasted), but I wasn't willing to part with that many of them in one shot for some reason!
*** For the walnut version of the pesto, I actually used about half olive and half walnut oil. Perhaps this is why I liked it best - it seemed lighter somehow than the full olive oil versions.


In other local happenings:

The kitchen help only sticks around these days
when he can get his hands on  black olives...
and clearly if I'm not careful, I'm going to lose
him to a career of bus driving.

Then again, both my boys seem to
enjoy riding slides!

If you can combine the two pictures above, you'll have one
good one of my three favorite men on Father's Day.
The father's day present to the Dad who has it all?
Littleneck clams and a cold Genny Cream Ale, of course!

For Father's Day, we grilled in the park, and this Daddy even
brought cream, sugar and a whisk to make the "icing" for
the strawberry shortcake. How lucky are WE?
Enjoying said whooped cream!
The already nice evening ended with a gorgeous sunset...
Our best to all of you...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We Were Making Jaamm, Strawberry Jaammmmm

Saturday morning found me itching
To get on over to my grandma's kitchen
Where the sweetest little berries was cooking up right
And then we'd put them in a canning jar and seal them up tight

We were making jam
Strawberry jam
If you want the best jam
You've gotta make your own
 -- Michelle Shocked

First, I will warn you right up front: today was NOT a good camera day for me. I don't think I got a single shot that had a combination of both the right exposure and a proper focus. But I'm posting them anyway... strawberries are just too much a part of this time of year to not write about just because of my photographic incompetence!!

Yesterday, my mom and I spent 45 minutes picking strawberries in the local U-pick patch. I walked out with twelve pounds of the sweet, juicy bursting-with-ripeness fruit. Oh, and there were quite a few in my belly too... you know how that "just a taste here and there" thing goes, right?

The first order of business of course was to consume them in the form of strawberry shortcake. We got very lucky and my mom shared her second pan of shortcake with us, so all we had to do was slice the berries and add sugar. Yummm... though I have to admit that I can't tell which part I like more when I eat it - the berries or the shortcake. I'll have to share that recipe soon too.

Having taken care of that, I moved on to the remaining (many) pounds of berries. Jam was next on the list.

Did you know that the "regular" jam recipe in the Sure-Jell pectin box calls for more sugar than it does fruit? Yup. I guess that's why the sweet-tooths of the world love it, huh? 

In an effort to make some preserves that were mostly fruit, last year I tried Ball's no-sugar pectin recipe that uses either Cran-Raspberry or Apple Juice as the sweetener. The flavor was fantastic, but alas, it didn't set up at all. 

Now for me, that's not really an issue; nearly all of the jam I eat is consumed mixed in with my yogurt in the morning. Runny-ness matters not. However, I do share a house with two men (well, OK, one man and one soon-to-be man - see pictures at the end of this post) who L.O.V.E. their PB&J's. There, my runny jam doesn't go over quite so well.

Given that, yet still wanting to try to make something that was at least more fruit than it was sugar, this year I tried Sure-Jell's low sugar recipe. It still has what seems like a lot of sugar, but at least the ratio is leaning in the right direction! 

At first it seemed to have failed completely. The jam separated, with the solids floating to the top and a clear jelly-like layer forming at the bottom of all the jars. Several hours have passed now since bottling it, and though it's not what I'd call "stiff", I think it's at least not totally runny. The flavor passed the "spoon lick" test at the end of the process too, so I have this funny feeling that no matter what, it's going to be consumed!

"Low Sugar" Strawberry Jam

4 cups crushed berries (this was, for me, just over two pounds once cleaned and trimmed).
3 cups sugar, mixed with one box pectin (Sure-Jell, sugar free variety) and one cup water.

Mix and heat sugar, pectin and water until boiling. Boil hard for one minute.

Immediately add pectin/sugar mixture to crushed fruit and stir for one minute.
Ladle into clean jars, wipe rims, seal with new canning lids and tighten with canning rings.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to set up.
In my experience it keeps up to, if not more than, one year.
Makes about six cups.


In other local happenings:

This is my Dad and Mom on their front porch, opening Mom's birthday present. It's the camera that we took with us to the strawberry field but was so small in her pocket that we forgot we had it and so never took any pictures!
Here are the new little birds, enjoying the out of doors for the first time this week. We're keeping them sectioned off from the old ladies until they get used to each other, but hope to have the little ones out of the garage by next week.

The blueberry plants that we put in last year have berries on them now!

We've gone canoeing three times now with Sam - he LOVES it, especially when we go check out the light houses! We are so excited to have the canoe right there at the lake this summer and hope to get out often, even if only for a few minutes each time!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting the Garden Going

Yesterday I thinned my kohlrabi.

It nearly broke my heart.

I'm not sure why something that you know is good for your plants in the long run is still so hard to do, but it is.

Two things have made me feel better about this.

  1. I trimmed and cleaned the leaves of the plants I pulled out (see above picture!), and we added them into the most delightful salads - two nights running. They have a great cabbage-like flavor without being tough at all, and they're a beautiful almost lime-colored green to boot.
  2. Today we got about an inch of rain. After it stopped and as the sun was setting, I walked out to check the garden, and those kohlrabi? I swear to goodness they've grown four inches in the last 24 hours, and they seriously look "happy". I guess they like their new roomy digs!
I've updated a list of garden happenings on the Garden Notes page - check it out if you want to see what else we're growing around here!