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...

1 comment:

  1. That bus driver picture is the absolute cutest!!


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