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.

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