Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Best Things You Probably Aren't Eating Yet: Garlic Scapes

Behold the garlic scape.  Small yet mighty, beautiful but with a bite, simple in look but intense in flavor.  Garlic scapes and I were introduced through my CSA the first year we joined it, and I fell in love at first taste.

Garlic scapes are actually the blooming sprouts of hardneck garlic, and for years, farmers considered them garbage parts.  They have to be cut off so that the plants' energy goes to their bulbs to produce full, flavorful heads of garlic, and most growers would just toss them into the compost.  Luckily, some brilliant culinary genius discovered that these shoots are not just edible, they are delicious, and now they are popping up at farmers' markets and in CSA shares everywhere.  A friend tipped me off this year when she found bunches of them at the local Korean market.  When and if you see them, get lots.  You won't regret getting too many, and a little is never enough.

Garlic scapes have the crunch and texture of raw green beans.  Their flavor is garlic, but a fresher, greener garlic flavor, unlike anything else.  You can use them chopped and tossed in stir-fries, with pasta, with other veggies that go well with garlic...pretty much anywhere you would use garlic or green onion.  Or, if you want to be able to enjoy the scapes year-round, you can do my favorite, and make yourself some garlic scape pesto.  It's all the things I like in a recipe: quick, simple, and yummy.

Grab a dozen garlic scapes,

Some pecorino and some asiago cheeses,

And some pine nuts, lemons, olive oil,

And salt and pepper.  Which you've probably seen before and don't need a picture of.  Not that you've never seen the other stuff, I just...well, honestly, I didn't take a picture of the salt and pepper.

Prep the garlic scapes by trimming the cut ends and then removing the flower bud tops and discarding them.

Then, chop the scapes into smaller pieces, around an inch each, no need to be exact.

Shred about a cup of each of the cheeses.

Put the scapes, the shredded cheeses, and a large handful (about a cup) of pine nuts into your food processor.  

Add some salt and pepper, and the juice of a lemon or two (Depending on how big/juicy they are.  I used 2 small but juicy lemons.), and put on the lid.  Pulse the processor 8-10 times to roughly chop the ingredients.

Next, turn it up to run straight, and drizzle in olive oil as it's running until you have a smoother, pesto-like consistency.  Probably about 1/4 cup or more of the oil.

And there you have it!  To freeze for later, you can freeze it in individual ice cube trays and then pop them into bags once they're frozen, just just take what you need from the bag each time, or you can do what I do and just freeze glass jars of it and thaw them one at a time.  Share some with fantastic friends, neighbors, relatives, etc., but know that they will probably be back for more.  The pesto is good for up to a month after thawing (or fresh), but it won't last that long.  It's great on bread, on pasta, in a salad, with shrimp, with more olive oil to make a dip, rolled in crescent roll dough and baked for appetizers, with chicken, with cream added for a sauce, with mozzarella and tomatoes on bread for an AMAZING grilled cheese...the garlicky possibilities are endless here.

Pesto is just about the easiest thing to pull off, and is super impressive at a party or dinner.  Throw something in a food processor with nuts, cheese, seasonings, and oil, and there you have it.  Experiment, go nuts!  I'll have more pesto recipes in the future, but today belongs to those curly little gifts of spring: garlic scapes.

Oh, and P.S.: Make sure that everyone you need to be in close contact with eats this too, as it can make for some potent breath!

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