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There’s no use in trying to hide it, so I’m just gonna go ahead and lay it on you from the start. I get a little unnaturally excited about garlic scapes—the way some people do about football teams or politics or hamburgers. A handful of years ago, I was a passably respectable corporate lawyer who had never even heard of scapes. Then somehow I became a crazy CSA lady. Fast-forward to last spring, when the economy was imploding and everyone was feeling grimmer than usual. I made and froze like a dozen batches of scape pesto; and I am not kidding when I say that the prospect of cracking them open one by one in the depths of winter to stir into twelve steaming pots of pasta gave me a sense of hope that no friend or news report or even chocolate cake could give.
Whew! That felt good. I feel like I can really talk to you guys. So. Thanks for that.
In one sense, scapes are to garlic as fusilli is to rigatoni: the crazy-bastard college buddy who never really embraced adulthood, the one you catch up with by phone once or twice a year. Scapes are the shoots that grow out of the ground from hard-neck varieties of garlic. When they’re young and tender, they look like curly green stalks with tightly closed buds on top. Farmers and gardeners harvest them at this time of year so that they won’t drain nutrients from the garlic bulbs that will be dug up in a couple of months, plump and glorious and ready for drying.
But scapes offer more than a slightly rowdy alternative to garlic. Because of their substantial heft as opposed to garlic cloves, they are vegetable, aromatic, and even herb all in one. If you get some from your CSA, happen upon a giant pile of them at the farmers’ market, or snip them from your garden, don’t politely look the other way. Grab a handful and give one of these ideas a try. And if you’ve got any other favorite uses for scapes, please share them in the comments!
1. Scape Pesto
Far and away my favorite use for garlic scapes is pesto, either straight-up or mixed with herbs like basil and dill. Pesto showcases raw scapes in all their glory. Scape pesto can be very pungent, but it mellows substantially after a few months in the freezer. I like it best in the middle of winter, but I think that’s one part mellowing and two parts deprivation. My favorite scape pesto recipe is below.
2. Grilled Scapes
Another great, and very different, way to showcase scapes is to grill them, tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, over direct heat for about two minutes. Flip them once, halfway through, and finish with an extra sprinkle of flaky salt and maybe a bit of lemon juice and zest. They’ll be charred in spots and just soft enough, and their flavor will have sweetened and mellowed dramatically. Grilled scapes are surprisingly reminiscent of asparagus, and surprisingly different from raw scapes.
3. Scape Hummus
For the same reason they work well in pesto, scapes are a brilliant swap-in for garlic in your favorite homemade hummus. I think they work especially well in a lemony, tahini-free hummus, which really gives them a chance to shine. Edamame “hummus” with scapes works nicely too, and color coordination is tough to argue with.
4. Scape Compound Butter
Scapes would make a lovely compound butter with a little lemon and maybe some fresh thyme. You could use the butter to make a tarted-up garlic bread, and I can’t think of much (except maybe fruit—I do have some boundaries) that could be tossed on the grill but not finished with a nice slice of this melting goodness.
5. Scapes as aromatic
To take a more utilitarian approach, you can slice scapes to whatever length you like and use them as you would garlic, as an aromatic in a wide variety of recipes. Scapes lose a lot of their bite when sautéed, more so than garlic cloves, so use at least three or four times as much scape-age as you would clove-age.
6. Scapes as vegetable
Scapes also work well as a vegetable, cut into lengths and added to stir-fries or blanched and added to salads, much as you might use green beans. They’re chameleons among vegetables, I tell you, though not karma chameleons. Karma-wise, they’re all good.
7. Scape Soup
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you toward Melissa Clark’s recipe for double-garlic soup, which uses both scapes and green garlic. If you’re not finding green garlic in the market anymore, you could improvise with a few garlic cloves and a handful of a pungent spring green like arugula or watercress.
What about you? Are you a long-time scape devotee, a recent convert, or a detractor? And if you love them, how do you love them best? Let us know in the comments!
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes*
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A few generous grinds of black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- *Or use half scapes and half herbs such as basil, dill and chervil
In a small, dry pan set over very low heat, lightly toast the pine nuts, stirring or tossing occasionally until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Combine the scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 20 times, until fairly well combined. Pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the oil is incorporated, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese. If you plan to freeze the pesto, wait to add the cheese until after you’ve defrosted it.
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