Friday, August 28, 2015

Adventures in the Emerald Isle
What’s cooking? Plum-Blackberry Compote on Broiled Peaches

The Kitchen Goddess has not deserted you. She’s in Ireland, getting her fill of crusty brown bread and Irish soda bread and fresh trout and some fabulous cake with a caramel sauce whose name I can’t remember. So posting has been a bit of a trial, but here I am at last.

One of my responsibilities as a grandmother is to send my granddaughter postcards from my travels. She’s 3½, so she loves getting the mail, which is how I found myself at the post office in Ennis, Ireland, yesterday.

It’s a tiny affair with a prison-cell decor, and barely large enough for the 15 or so people who stood patiently in a line that snaked almost out the door. Only one service window was open, and with nothing else to do while I waited to buy stamps, I checked out the other customers.

Directly in front of me, a young man, maybe in his late 20s, chatted quietly with a slightly older woman, in a language I didn’t recognize. She handed him the pile of post cards she was mailing. As he rifled through them, I noticed they were all addressed to Poland.

He bent affectionately toward her as he talked, and I heard, “[Polish Polish Polish]...six stamps to Poland.” He handed her back the stack of cards and repeated, “Six stamps to Poland.”

She shook her head, obviously embarrassed, and responded, “[Polish Polish Polish],” as she tried to get him to take the cards back.

He refused, and the debate continued. Each time he gently insisted, “Six stamps to Poland,” she shook her head “No.”

As their turn at the window approached, I couldn’t stay silent any longer. I tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “You can do it. Six stamps to Poland.”

She smiled nervously, and he nodded. He turned to me and said, “She comes every year and I try to learn her some English. But no.” Then he added, “She learns Russian, but not English.”

Finally, it was her turn. They walked up to the window, and as she pushed her cards over to the postal clerk, she leaned in and I heard a soft, “Six stamps to Poland.”

They were both grinning as they walked out into the afternoon.

* * *

Cooking and food can present much that same sort of challenge. All too often, when you come across a new technique or a new taste to master, you may have a tendency to say, “I can’t do that.” Phooey. Of course you can – it’s only food. The Kitchen Goddess encourages you to join her as she shouts, “Six stamps to Poland!” and go for it.

Most recently, the challenge I faced was nothing more than an overstuffed fridge and a vacation deadline. “What’ll I do with all this fruit?!” I asked myself. That would be 3½ pounds of sugar plums on the verge of overripening and four small containers of blackberries. Yikes. (Don’t worry, I’ve cut the quantities down to more manageable portions for you.) I could have made jam, but decided instead that what I really wanted was compote.

So first I had to look up “compote” to make sure I had the concept right. Yes, it’s just what I thought – a sort of dessert topping made from whole or chunked fruit in a simple sugar syrup. Very light and fruity without being jammy. Then you put it on ice cream or pound cake for dessert, or stir it into your morning yogurt, or serve it as an appetizer with goat cheese and crackers. Very flexible, and simple as pie – really much simpler than pie.

And just to show you what a swell person the Kitchen Goddess is, I’ve also included a summer fruit dessert – broiled peaches – that uses the compote. What a great way to celebrate summer!

Plum-Blackberry Compote

Makes about 3 cups.

¾ cup sugar
1½ pounds plums (any type of plum should do – I had sugar plums), seeded and cut into quarters if small, eighths if large
zest of ½ lemon
2 cups blackberries
1½ tablespoons lemon balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar plus ½ teaspoon lemon juice)

Put the sugar into a large saucepan with 1 cup water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Boil 5 minutes then add the plums and lemon zest. Cook the plums at a low boil for 5 minutes, then add blackberries and vinegar and simmer another 5 minutes.

Serve as dessert, warm or chilled, over ice cream or Greek yogurt or pound cake. Also works for breakfast with yogurt, or as an hors d’oeuvre with goat cheese and crackers.

Or serve it as dessert over broiled peaches, like this. (The Kitchen Goddess loved the extra kick of flavor from the sesame oil, but the butter is also terrific, so use whatever pleases you.)

Broiled Peaches with Plum-Blackberry Compote

Step 1: Brush with butter or sesame oil.
To serve 4.

2 large peaches, peeled and seeded, cut in half
1 tablespoon melted butter or toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat the oven on broil. Lay the peaches cut sides up in a square Pyrex casserole dish lined with crumpled foil. (The foil will keep the peaches from sliding around, and will minimize clean-up.)

Brush the cut sides of the peaches with the butter or sesame oil. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Broil 4½-5 minutes, until the sugar caramelizes.
Step 2: Sprinkle on brown sugar.

Serve with fruit compote and a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt.

Step 3: Broil 4-5 minutes.

Then save some as gifts for friends!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Tale of Two Italys
What’s cooking? Clam & Corn Chowder

Most people, when they think of Little Italy in New York City, picture a tiny area in lower Manhattan, nestled next to Chinatown, featured in The Godfather, and the home of the famous Festival of San Gennaro. But the neighborhood population peaked (at 10,000) in 1910, and the physical area has since been under constant pressure, crowded by growth on the west from the artists in SoHo and celebrities in TriBeCa, by new highrises in the creeping gentrification of the Lower East Side and the Bowery, and wrapped on all sides by tentacles of Chinatown. Even NoLIta (North of Little Italy), a section once firmly part of the corpus of Little Italy, now commands its own identity with the yuppies that call the area home.

So where does one go to find the merchants and residents who once occupied that space? Come with me to visit Arthur Avenue, in the Fordham section of The Bronx.

A short aside: If you’re limited to Manhattan and want a great Italian shopping and eating experience, check out Eataly, the emporium opened in 2010 by Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich. It’s 50,000 square feet of food courts and shelves of dried pastas, jams, sauces, olives, 100 different kinds of olive oil, and pretty much anything produced in Italy, as well as counters for fresh pasta, salumeria, espresso, and chocolate. According to Wikipedia, “Batali has described the place as a grocery store with tasting rooms.” It’s on Fifth Ave at 23rd Street, and well worth a visit. But it’s expensive, and it’s not Arthur Avenue.

This is Arthur Avenue.

The Kitchen Goddess made her first trip to Arthur Avenue last summer, and was immediately smitten. What you get with a trip to Arthur Avenue is the old world charm, tree-lined streets, and the sense of a neighborhood that’s completely committed to the best of a culture, culinarily speaking, of course. They have bakeries for every kind of Italian cookie, and different bakeries for crusty Italian breads. Open air markets with barrels of olives, and cheese shops with fresh mozzarella. Salumerias with huge displays of Italian cured meats, and butcher shops with fresh hot and sweet sausages as well as rabbit, pheasant, and wild boar. And, of course, shops for fresh pasta.

But my favorite stop was the fishmonger, Consenza's. There are other fishmongers on Arthur Avenue, but Cosenza’s was the only one I saw with a stand-up raw bar out front. The Kitchen Goddess made a little piggie of herself over the fresh clams and oysters, right there in the great outdoors.

And the bins inside had more gorgeous fish and shellfish than I think I’ve ever seen in one place before – all smelling like it just came out of the water.

I succumbed to the need for more clams, and took home a 2-pound bag (about 50 clams) to make a truly excellent clam chowder the next night. There is hardly a better dish in the world.

Kitchen Goddess note about fresh clams: Whole clams in their shells are sold live, usually in porous bags of net or burlap. The smaller clams are the tenderest, and you want to store them in the fridge (but not on ice), in a bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel. DO NOT keep them in a plastic bag, as they’ll die from lack of oxygen. Really fresh clams will last a few days, but if you buy them at a grocery store, you should cook them within 24 hours.

Before you cook them, take them out of their bag and put them in a bowl of fresh cold, unsalted water to cover, for 20-30 minutes. This’ll give the little buggers time to clean themselves of unwanted salt and sand on the inside. Then lift them out of the water (so you leave the sand behind), and scrub them with a soft brush or plastic mesh scrubber, to get rid of any sand on the outside of the shells. Now they’re ready to cook.

Clam and Corn Chowder

Adapted from Shelley Wiseman in Gourmet magazine, August 2007

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

3 slices bacon, cut into pieces about 1 inch long
5-6 small scallions, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts), or ¼ cup shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
corn sliced from 3 ears (about 2 cups)
1 pound small-to-medium boiling potatoes (red or white skins), cut in ½-inch cubes
16 ounces bottled clam juice
½ cup water
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch dice
2 pounds small hard-shelled clams, well cleaned
1½ cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

In a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot (I use a 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven) over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring, until slightly browned but not crisp. Add the scallions or shallots and garlic, along with 1 tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add the corn, potatoes, clam juice, water, wine, pepper, and thyme, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, uncovered. Add the clams and return the mixture to a boil. Cover the pot and cook, checking and stirring occasionally, until the clams are just opened wide, about 7-8 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t unopened after 8 minutes, as they probably weren’t alive on the way into the pot.

Reduce the heat and add the half-and-half and the chives/parsley, as well as the remaining tablespoon of butter. Cook, stirring, until the chowder is heated through, but don’t let it boil. Adjust chowder seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with toasted French or Italian bread and a green salad.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Winner, Winner, Mushroom Dinner
What’s cooking? A Blender Winner and Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Before I get into the recipe of the day, I want to announce the winner of the Hamilton Beach Wave~Action Blender. I also want to thank all of you who left comments and stopped by to read about my Cool Green Soup and the wonderful smoothie I made with my own Hamilton Beach blender.

So, without further ado, the winner is...

Congratulations, Rana! I’ll be contacting you separately to get an address for the Hamilton Beach people to send your prize.

* * *

Not everything I find at the farmers’ market is green or red or yellow, though just thinking about what shows up in those colors makes me smile. I recently stopped by one of the organic stands where they stock mushrooms from surrounding farms. These mushrooms were so beautiful – plump, reasonably clean, and mostly unmarred (really, sometimes the ’shrooms you find at the grocery store look like they grew under the log, not on top) – that I could hardly wait to get them home. For a light, healthy summer entrée, you really can’t beat pasta with sautéed mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Add a salad, some toasted crusty bread, a little fruit sorbet for dessert, and a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and I’ll be right over.

For this dish, I picked a combination of crimini mushrooms and shiitakes. With mushrooms, you can spend a lot of money without trying, but it’s not necessary to do so, especially if you just want to get a decent dinner on the table. Those two varieties I chose aren’t much more expensive than white button mushrooms and they have worlds more flavor – which is important when that’s pretty much all that’s on the plate.

Crimini (also sometimes spelled “cremini”) look like white button mushrooms but have a slightly earthier flavor. Think of them as baby portabella mushrooms, because, well, that’s what they are.

Shiitakes are among the most flavorful mushrooms, with a meaty texture and strong earthy, woodsy flavors. They’re cultivated throughout Asia and found in many Asian recipes. Shiitakes are high-protein mushrooms, rich in potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magne-sium and phosphorus. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol, and regulate blood pressure. They’re even said to be good for your skin. So unless you just don’t like mushrooms, these should be regulars on your table.

Kitchen Goddess notes on buying, storing, and cleaning mushrooms:
1. Buy mushrooms with a plump, smooth but dry skin. No major blemishes or slimy spots. A closed “veil” (that part under the cap) will produce a more delicate flavor; an open “veil” will yield richer flavor.
2. Store mushrooms in the fridge, preferably in a paper bag, where they’ll last a week or more. DO NOT RINSE THEM until you’re ready to cook.
3. To clean mushrooms, set a colander with relatively large perforations into a large bowl of water. Put the mushrooms into the colander and swish them around energetically to loosen the dirt, then lift the colander out of the water, leaving behind the debris. Working quickly, turn the mushrooms out onto tea towels and lightly rub or pat them clean/dry with paper towels or another tea towel. Mushrooms should spend the least possible time in water.

So, now that you’re ready,...

Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Inspired by a recipe in Gourmet magazine, September, 2006.
(You can choose to use only white or cremini mushrooms; if you do so, just change the name of this dish to “Pasta with Fresh Mushroom Sauce.”)

Please note that the pasta/mushroom quantities for this recipe have been revised since the original posting. I don't know what I was thinking, but you can be sure it is better now.

Serves 6 as first course, 4 as entrée.

8-10 ounces linguine (or spaghetti or fettuccini)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil)
10 ounces large fresh crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced (¼ inch)
8 ounces medium-to-large fresh shiitake mushrooms or a mix of fresh wild mushrooms, thickly sliced (¼ inch)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or red wine or white wine – lots of flexibility here)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons diced shallots (or spring onions)
zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leafed parsley
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, well salted water until al dente.

In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms in the oil and butter. Kitchen Goddess note on technique here: It is easy to screw up sautéed mushrooms. Also easy to do it right, as long as you are careful that (1) the mushrooms should be dry; and (2) you get the oil and butter hot enough that the butter foams and then subsides before you add the mushrooms. (Using a mix of oil and butter allows the fat to get even hotter than with butter alone.) Then (3) toss the mushrooms in the hot fat for 4-5 minutes, during which time they’ll absorb all the fat. Continue to cook them, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, when they’ll release some of that fat and brown.

For this preparation, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in two batches, using half the butter and oil with each batch. If you do, add the first batch back into the skillet once the second batch is browned.

Now, reduce the heat slightly on the skillet. Add the sherry (or wine), the garlic, and the shallots, and stir to combine with the mushrooms. As the sherry boils, scrape up any bits of browned butter and mushroom from the bottom of the skillet, stirring constantly.

Before you drain the pasta, reserve ½ cup of cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the mushrooms. Stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, to bring the mixture to a texture that you like.

Stir in the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Think Cool – with a Great Giveaway from Hamilton Beach
What’s cooking? Yummy Plummy Yogurt Smoothie and Cool Green Soup

The Kitchen Goddess is so generous. Actually, it’s my friends at Hamilton Beach who are generous, but I’m passing along their largess in another great giveaway. 

If you don’t have a blender, or yours is old and rusty, or maybe you’d just like to have an extra one at the bar (now there’s an idea, and this machine is perfect for that purpose, as the little removable cap is marked with a 1-ounce measure),  now’s your chance to get one for FREE. Just leave a signed comment on this page or on the Spoon & Ink Facebook page, and I’ll enter your name in the drawing.

I’ll draw the winner’s name on Monday, August 3, so get your comments in over the next week.

* * *

There comes a time at the height of summer when the idea of turning on the stove or heating up the oven is nothing short of anathema. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on prepared foods. You just have to expand your definition of the word “cook.”

When the folks at Hamilton Beach sent this Wave~Action Blender my way, it seemed the perfect excuse to whip up some cool dishes that would still satisfy the Kitchen Goddess’s need for complexity.  KG note: Farther down in this post is a truly amazing cold soup, so if you get bored with the smoothie, just speed-read until you get to the soup.

Challenge #1: Smoothie
It was early in the day when I set to work – “early” in the world of the semi-retired being, ...oh,... 10am? But whatever the time, we all need breakfast. And in my kitchen, I noticed a phenomenon that plagues me all summer: what to do with soft fruit? When I buy it – at the farmers’ market, natch – it’s nothing short of gorgeous. So I set it out on the counter to ripen a bit, and because I so enjoy the look of it sitting there, I lose track of the days. Before I know it, the fruitflies are gathering and my lovely plums or peaches are now too soft to eat plain.

If that happens to you, you can either make preserves or ...(drum-roll, please)... make a smoothie. The great, fruity taste will still be there – even a bit stronger in ripe fruit – and, well, you’re blending it anyhow, right?

So my first success of the day was one I’m calling Yummy Plummy Yogurt Smoothie. The Hamilton Beach Wave~Action Blender made short work of the fruit – including skins (where most of the vitamins are) – as well as the banana and the ice. Crushed that sucker into a super-smoothie in no time flat. Not a single lump of ice, which you can’t say for a lot of blenders. So for Challenge #1, the blender gets an A+.

Kitchen Goddess note: You’ll see that I use Minted Simple Syrup. Ladies and gents, unless you really dislike mint, this stuff is so worth making. It takes almost no time, you can use in a zillion ways, and it lasts forever. The stuff I’m using now is left over from last summer. (I also have a jar of it in my Texas fridge.) But I don’t want you to fret over clicking around to get the recipe, so here it is.

Minted Simple Syrup

(from Gourmet, August 1998):

1½ cups packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine the water, the sugar, and the mint. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Simmer 2 minutes and remove from heat. Strain out the mint and reserve the syrup. You should get about 1½ cups of syrup.

And now you can make...

Yummy Plummy Yogurt Smoothie

Serves 2.

5-6 small plums (golf ball size) or 2-3 large plums
3-4 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt
½ ripe banana
2 tablespoons Minted Simple Syrup
1 cup ice

Pile all ingredients into the blender, loading the ice in last, and let ‘er rip. Blend on high about 1 minute, or on the Smoothie setting for the Wave~Action Blender.

Challenge #2 – Cold Soup
Then it was time for lunch. At the farmers’ market on Sunday, I had purchased a bunch of sorrel. Don’t ask why – it sounded like something I should try, and 2015 is my year of living with adventure.

Sorrel is a leafy, perennial herb that more closely resembles leaf spinach than anything herby. The taste is sharp and lemony, so it’s usually combined with other types of greens in cultures the world over. It’s stewed with spinach in Romania, mixed with mashed potatoes in Croatia and Bulgaria, used with spinach, leeks, and chard for spanakopita in Greece, and added to lettuce for salads in Viet Nam.

I thought my sorrel would be good in a soup with cucumbers, and found an interesting sounding cold soup with just that base of ingredients at an Austin friend’s fun blog, What Jew Wanna Eat. I’ve tweaked hers a bit, and because it’s such a lovely color – the perfect color for chilling out – I’ve called it Cool Green Soup. It’s a great blend of flavors – sweetness from the onion and the grapes, tartness from the lemon and sorrel, grassiness from the avocado and the cukes. And while the soup is good on its own, don’t skip the garnishes – they’re easy and really add to the total taste.

Cool Green Soup

Adapted from Amy Kritzer's blog, What Jew Wanna Eat

Makes 6 cups.

The Soup:
12 ounces seedless cucumbers, a.k.a. English cucumbers (about 5 small or 1 large), cut in 1-inch dice
2 cups sorrel, roughly chopped, with thickest stems removed
2 ripe avocados, cut in 1-inch dice
1 small Cipollini onion (about 4 ounces) (can substitute white boiling onion or pearl onions), cut in 1-inch dice
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
2 cloves garlic (roasted is best, raw is ok), chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 3 teaspoons fresh)

Mint oil
The Garnishes:
Mint oil (½ cup mint plus ½ cup olive oil, processed fine and refrigerated overnight)
Seedless green grapes, cut in ¼-inch dice
Ripe nectarine (with skin), cut in ¼-inch dice

Combine all ingredients (except the garnishes) in a 6-8 cup container and refrigerate overnight, to let them get to know each other well. (Trust me, it makes a difference.) Make the mint oil and refrigerate overnight.

Purée the soup well for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasoning (salt and freshly ground pepper) to taste. Serve with a few drops of mint oil and a spoonful of the grapes and/or the nectarine.

For Challenge #2, my Wave~Action Blender performed like a champ. Even with the large quantity (which I eventually divided into two batches when it threatened to overflow), the soup was smooth and the sorrel was finely shredded. I even made the mint oil in the blender, and it was as well puréed as I might have gotten with my food processor.

Challenges #3 and #4  
I conducted two other tests: making a salsa and grinding ice. I’m pretty sure making salsa in a blender is just a bad idea. It tasted good, and the blender’s pulsing function worked well, but the avocado/tomato combination I tried became pretty close to a purée by the time I got the tomatoes sufficiently chopped. And the final test – grinding/crushing ice – didn’t go well with just ice. The machine needs liquid to keep things moving. When I added a cup of liquid to a cup of ice, I got very nice, finely and evenly crushed ice. So I think it’ll do a great job on a frozen margarita or a dacquiri.

Easy cleanup
The Bottom Line
All in all, the Wave~Action Blender is a nice machine. It’s got a number of well-thought out features, like the pour spout on the lid; and the removable cap that doubles as a jigger is just brilliant. The blade housing is part of the pitcher construction, so it’s hard to have one of those lose-a-finger accidents, and cleanup becomes really easy. Most blenders are so heavy, you feel like you have to call a friend just to get them up onto the countertop. But the Hamilton-Beach motor housing is lightweight and easy to move while still feeling stable; there’s no sense that it’ll dance around the countertop. And the price is amazingly reasonable.

So if you don’t win the drawing, you can find this little gem at Walmart in RED (get back, Loretta) for $21.77, or save a couple more bucks and get it in steel grey for only $19.78. Whew. Or you can go to, where it’s $38.19 with free shipping. Hard to say which is the better deal, as shipping costs are all over the lot. The Walmart site says you can get free shipping for orders over $35, or FREE pickup. So, Walmart, there’s no shipping charge if you pick it up? Hahahahah. Thanks for reminding me.

Monday, July 13, 2015

And Now for Something Totally Different
What’s cooking? Garlic Scapes Pesto and Garlic Scapes Vinegar

So maybe not totally different, but pretty different. These sinuously graceful creatures, twisting and curving like dancers in a foodie production of Swan Lake, are garlic scapes.

Allium sativum, known as garlic,
 from William Woodville, 
Medical Botany, 1793.
And what, you inquire, are garlic scapes? I’m so glad you asked. Garlic scapes are the top part of the garlic plant, which farmers cut off before the flower blooms so that the plant can focus all its energy into bulb growth. Because they’re part of the garlic plant, they still deliver that pungent garlic taste, but in a milder format. You can cook with them the same way you would with garlic cloves. And you can do some fun things that aren’t possible with cloves.

Now that I’ve piqued your interest (which I surely have), here are a few other tidbits about garlic:

1. Garlic has been used by humans for more than 7,000 years, but elephant garlic – one of the best known “garlics” sold in stores today – is actually not garlic at all but a wild leek. Which is why it’s not as strong as regular garlic.

2. Although Gilroy, California, calls itself the “Garlic Capital of the World,” more than 80% of the world’s garlic actually comes from China.

3. The sulfur compounds in the garlic and onion family get harsher when exposed to air, so if you’re using raw garlic or onion in a dish, you should either chop them immediately before serving, or – here’s the fun part – rinse them in cold water, which gets rid of the harsh compounds, so you’ll only taste the fresh ones.

The Kitchen Goddess has tasked herself this year to be braver with food. So when she saw garlic scapes in a bin at the farmers’ market, she could hear that siren call of possibility. They looked so exotic – how hard could it be to find something delicious to do with them?

Not hard at all was the answer. First, I made a marvelous pesto that I put on pasta one night. The next night, I tossed some of that pesto with new potatoes before roasting them. Finally, I found some white wine vinegar and infused some scapes in the vinegar to give as gifts to my friends. What fun! And the scapes keep well in the fridge (in ziplock bags), so I didn’t have to think of all this stuff in one day.

Scapes won’t be around all summer, so run out now and try to find some. And if you come up with another something to cook with them, let me know. The Kitchen Goddess got a little overexcited and bought... well, a lot. The way you can tell you’re buying more than a normal person would need is when the woman selling it says, “Wow – you’re really serious about making something with these, aren’t you?” But I didn’t have the nerve to back down, so I’ll just be making much more pesto and freezing it. I can already taste how wonderful it’ll be if I toss some shrimp with it and grill them. Oh, my...

Garlic Scapes Pesto

Adapted from Ian Knauer of Tullamore Farms, NJ, on

Makes about 2 cups.

10-12 large garlic scapes
½ cup cashew nuts or pistachio nuts (best is unsalted; if you can’t find unsalted, be sure to taste before you add salt), lightly toasted
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, process the scapes, the nuts, and the cheese until you have a fairly granular paste. Then, with the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Store covered in the fridge (keeps 1-2 weeks) or in the freezer.

Pasta with Garlic Scapes Pesto

Serves 6-8.

1 pound pasta (spaghetti, fettuccini, linguine, farfalle, fusilli – lots of choices)
⅔ cup Garlic Scapes Pesto
¼ cup half-and-half or light cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Kitchen Goddess note on the best pasta: 1. Pasta water is one of the most underrated of magic kitchen potions. No matter what the sauce, it will almost always be improved by a few tablespoons of the water in which you just cooked the pasta. First, it contributes a bit of salt. But more importantly, it adds back some of the starch that leeched out of the pasta as it cooked. That starch will bind with the oil in your sauce, giving your sauce a more silky consistency, and helping the sauce stick to the pasta. 2. The best way to serve your pasta is to cook it al dente, then finish cooking it – only briefly! – in the pan with the sauce and some pasta water. 3. This recipe uses more pasta water than usual because the pesto is very thick.

Return the cooked pasta to the pot along with the pesto and the pasta water. Stir well to combine. Bring the sauce just to a boil then reduce heat. Add the cream, lemon juice, and cheese, and stir well but do not allow to boil.

Roasted New Potatoes in Pesto

Serves 4.

1 pound new potatoes (about the size of golf balls), halved
2 tablespoons Garlic Scapes Pesto (or, frankly, any pesto will do)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450º.

Toss potatoes with pesto and arrange on a small sheet pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes, stirring at the halfway point. Serve immediately.

Garlic Scapes Vinegar

The idea for this darling hostess gift came to me from a food writer named Catie Baumer Schwalb, whose really excellent food blog, Pitchfork Diaries, is well worth a visit.

The Kitchen Goddess found these bottles at, where a box of 10 in the 250-milliliter size (8 ounces) was only $33.50.

The easiest way to sterilize your bottles is in the dishwasher, but you’ll want to remove the little rubber gaskets and wash them separately, as they don’t do well in the high heat of the dry cycle.

Once the bottles have cooled, fill each with 8 ounces of your favorite white wine vinegar. Choose one with a mild flavor so that it doesn’t compete with the scape.

Wash the scapes and dry on paper towels. Trim the ends of the scapes and roll them on a cutting board to soften them up slightly. Insert 1-2 scapes in each bottle. They’re somewhat awkward and tend to put up a protest at being forced down the necks of the bottles, but if you tickle them with a chopstick or the end of a wooden spoon, they’ll cooperate. You also want to make sure the scape sits all the way into the vinegar, as my understanding is that exposed bits will rot.

Cap the bottles and refrigerate for a couple of weeks before using. The vinegar should be an excellent ingredient in a vinaigrette or a sauce for chicken or fish.