I picked up a beautiful, gnarly tangle of garlic scapes from the farmers’ market this weekend to play around with and found so many delicious uses for them: grilled flatbread; mixed pepper stir-fry; pickled with chiles and bay leaves; and pesto.
What the heck is a garlic scape, you ask? It is the long, green flower stem that grows from a head of garlic. Farmers remove the scapes which draw energy and nutrients away from the bulbs so that the bulbs may grow larger and more robust. It’s a lovely sacrifice that I’m happy to accept–guiltlessly. They’re generally available at farmers’ markets in early to mid summer, so now is the time to binge. You can freeze them with a quick blanch and flash-freeze but it’s not quite the same.
Fresh, at first bite, they’re mildly garlicky and very green tasting, but after a few seconds, they explode into that recognizably sharp, pungent and spicy garlic flavor. When sautéed, however, they become mellow and sweet with a delicate suggestion of garlic. The texture is not unlike a tender green bean or pencil-thin asparagus.
Preparation couldn’t be simpler. Trim an inch or so from the tough, woody bottoms and the brown feathery tops and then cut into whatever size pieces you like. For the flat bread, and stir-fry, I cut them into 2-inch pieces and sautéed them until crisp-tender. For the pickles, I cut them to fit the jar and left them raw because I wanted a pronounced flavor and a crunchy texture–think garlic dills without the cucumbers.
The same went for the pesto. The vibrant, green flavor would be irresistible on grilled bread or simple grilled chicken, both of which I served that night–deliciously! Ordinarily I like to toast nuts for pesto because it adds a more distinct nutty flavor, but here, I left them raw so as not to interfere with the garlic too much. For that reason, I also left out the cheese, though pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano would be fine. Honestly, it could go either way and still be dreamy. Please try it while scapes are still at the market. They don’t last forever!
GARLIC SCAPE PESTO WITH PINE NUTS
Makes about 1 cup
10 large garlic scapes, bottom ends and browned tops trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup (packed) Italian parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Put the scapes, parsley and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. While the machine is running add the oil and process to a chunky puree. Season with salt. Stir in cheese if so desired and use on grilled chicken or bread, with pasta, grain or bean salads.