Time for garlic scapes. Those spiraling, twisty turvy green stalks that look like thin, lime green snakes weaving their way around a garden. Except, these snake-like things (actually nicknamed “serpent garlic”) are delicious.
Pungent and sweet like green garlic but far less strong, garlic scapes are the unopened flower buds of the hardneck garlic plant that appear about a month after the first leaves.
Last Saturday I caught a tangled bunch of the loveable Midwestern herb at the River Valley Ranch tent last Saturday, and wondered, what should I do with this?
In the past, I’ve substituted the scapes for chives in a summery dip with crudités or atop simple baked sweet potatoes and sour cream. But the nice woman at the mushroom stand suggested something else much more intriguing – how about a garlic scape pesto?
To make it, simply substitute the scapes for garlic and basil and add the usual pesto additions: good quality extra virgin olive oil, Italian (not Chinese-sourced) pine nuts, and Parmesan or pecorino-Romano cheese. In my case, I’d probably add back in a little basil plucked fresh from my pot outside, but just a little – maybe a few leaves or so. I wouldn’t want to overwhelm the delicate garlic flavor.
On my way out from the market that day I passed by River Valley Ranch’s other booth at the opposite end selling portabella mushroom burgers on buns spread with the garlic scape pesto. Marinate those meaty ports in a little of River Valley Ranch’s portabella mushroom steak sauce and some aged balsamic vinegar, fire up the grill (or broiler), spread a little scape pesto on a Bennison’s Bakery pretzel bun or Ciabatta roll, and you have yourself a nice little lunch – or meatless dinner.
Another option: garlic scape pesto and wild mushroom-flavored linguini from Pasta Puttana (Jessica Volpe), another GCM vendor. Cooked al dente, mixed with a little of the pasta cooking water and the pesto, and topped with a few shavings of pecorino, I’m not sure what else is needed for a freshly-made pasta like that. Did you know Jessica uses local farm eggs for her dough, too?
Here’s a quick recipe for that garlic scape pesto (adapted from Epicurious). This makes enough to coat about 1 pound of pasta. I prefer Pecorino versus Parmigianino cheese for its gentler, nutty flavor, again not to overshadow the scapes. Enjoy.
Garlic Scape Pesto
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto)
10 large garlic scapes
1/4 cup Italian pine nuts
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, puree the garlic scapes, pine nuts and cheese until very finely chopped. Slowly pour in oil with the motor running or in between pulses. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The pesto will stay fresh in the fridge, covered, for a week, or freeze for up to a month.