July 14, 2009

Garlic (E)scapes

Oh what a clever title. How did I ever think of that! But really, garlic scapes are a cool veggie with big garlic flavor and no need to peel and chop lots of little garlic cloves, so it kind of applies. Basically they're part of what grows above ground on a garlic plant, and garlic cloves are the blub below. When they showed up in my CSA pickup I'd never heard of them, and since I'd enlisted some friends to do the actual picking up of the veggies when I had to work (thanks Shawn and Carolyn!) I first thought they were some foreign kind of green bean and took a big ol' raw garlicky bite before I figured it out. Mmm? Not so much.

Some quick Googling showed that a tastier way to use them is garlic scape pesto. I love, love, love pesto (basil, cheese, garlic, nuts, oil...what's not to like?) but I've never made it because it requires a good deal of basil, which can be pricey at the grocery store. Trader Joe's has a really good and relatively inexpensive bottled version ($2.49) but the jar is tiny enough that I could probably eat it in one sitting, even though it's greasy and filling enough that I know I'd regret it.

I saw garlic scapes over the weekend at the Union Square Greenmarket for cheap - 6 for $1, and this recipe only requires a dozen. I've never seen them in a regular grocery store, but then again I haven't been looking. Not that regular garlic is that expensive, and neither is basil if you get it at a farmer's market, but I like how the scapes in this recipe knock out both those ingredients. Two for the price of one, and less fuss!

-12 garlic scapes
-1/2 cup hard cheese, like parmesan or asiago, grated (preferably not from a can)
-1/3 cup slivered or roughly chopped almonds
-1/2 cup olive oil, or more, or less (see below)

Roughly chop the scapes and put them in a food processor. (I didn't try it, but I bet you could also use a blender, especially if you added the scapes a few at a time.) Throw in the grated cheese and almonds, start blending, and slowly pour in the oil with the processor running. Add more oil to get the consistency you want. Personally I wanted it chunky, almost more like a paste than a sauce, so I left it at 1/2 cup. Seemed more vegetable-y, plus it has less fat (so you can eat more!) I didn't add too much additional salt, about a teaspoon, but do so to taste.

Tada, sauce! I ended up with a little more than would fit in a 12 oz. jar. It packs a punch if you eat it straight, so I was worried it would be too intense as a pasta sauce, but it was just right. I microwaved it a bit so it would blend easily with the hot pasta, added grape tomatoes and some CSA scallions and bang, dinner. Shaun thought it was weird but he still ate his whole plate, plus the rest of mine when I was full.

Extra credit: In this week's NY Times, Mark Bittman suggests using garlic scapes as the main vegetable in a low-egg fritatta. I'd be interested to know how much the garlic flavor mellows when you cook them, because to me that sounds like it might taste like a head of garlic on a stick (or fork) with some egg glue, if anyone wants to find out!


  1. Every time I go to the farmer's market I eyeball the scapes! Always wondered what we'd use them for, as soon as we have enough basil growing I can make pesto. Can't wait!

  2. mmmm ... that pasta looks so tasty!