Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My obsession with garlic scape pesto

Garlic scape is something I had never heard of before my sister-in-law introduced me to her delicious garlic scape pesto last year. 

So...what exactly is garlic scape?

Garlic scapes have a delicate garlic flavor, a tender, pliable texture, and a fragrance that hints at green grass and garlic. They’re at once a vegetable, an herb, and an aromatic. 

“Scape” is a botanical term that refers to a flower-bearing stem. A garlic scape is the flower stem of the garlic plant (Allium sativum), which forms a pod near the top of the stem that’s full of bulbils, or tiny garlic cloves. Scapes sprout mostly from hard-neck garlic varieties like Rocambole and Purple Stripe; soft-neck types, like Artichoke, are bred not to grow stems at all.

For years, scapes were considered little more than a byproduct of the garlic plant. They were trimmed off in early summer simply to ensure that all of the plants’ energy went into forming plump bulbs underground. Today, scapes are harvested not only for that reason but also to meet growing demand for them as an ingredient.

how to choose:

Typically found at farmers’ markets, garlic scapes are making headway in supermarkets, too. Look for long, curved, or curly stalks that are firm, smooth, and a vibrant green.

how to prep:

Although the entire scape is edible, the pod and tip above it can be fibrous and are best discarded. Use garlic scapes as you would scallions or shallots, or in any dish that could use a garlicky note. Blend raw scapes into hummus, bean dips, salad dressing, or even softened butter to spread over grilled vegetables or baked potatoes. Purée them with pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan, salt, and pepper for pesto. You can also add them to scrambled eggs or use them as a garnish. 

Scapes are more delicately flavored and sweeter when cooked. Slice them into 1/2-inch pieces and sauté them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a spritz of lemon juice for an easy side dish, or grill whole scapes as you would scallions. Like green beans, they’re great steamed, added to stir-fries, or blanched and tossed into salads. 

With their mellow garlicky flavor, scapes pair well with summer produce like zucchini, chard, and spinach; herbs like cilantro and lemongrass; rich ingredients like bacon, cream, eggs, mayonnaise, butter, and cheese; and bold flavors like lemon juice, soy sauce, and mustard.

how to store:

You can refrigerate scapes in a paper bag for about a month. For longer storage, blanch and freeze them for up to a few months, though they’ll lose flavor over time.

Early summer next year, get your garlic scape from your fresh Farmers Market and follow the garlic scape pesto recipe below and let me know if you are not hooked on this deliciousness. Or perhaps, you can get started with this recipe now if you have some in the freezer?


Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like)
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.

If you're not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months, by which time tomatoes should be at their juiciest.


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