Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

What on earth is a SCAPE? I didn't know either. And who came up with that name? Anyway, I have them. Scapes are the flower stems that garlic plants produce just before the bulbs mature underground. If you are growing your own garlic, as I am for my first year ever, it is a common practice to cut the scapes off in order to boost the growth of your bulbs. It's wonderful because it is one more thing that you can harvest from your garden at this early point in the season when all there is, is lettuce, peas, strawberries, rhubarb and last fall's kale (which, is not too shabby an assortment, I must say).
Some say to cut your scapes off before they make a full loop, others say wait until they've made two loops. I split it down the middle and trimmed them off after about one loop -- give or take -- and enough to make my first batch ever of Garlic Scape Pesto. Aren't they a bit odd looking?
To make Garlic Scape Pesto, you pretty much follow your favorite basil pesto recipe and in place of the basil, use the scapes. The recipe I adapted from called for a pound of scapes. My first harvest was just shy of that.
Here is the recipe I ended up with:

Before you start, put water on to boil with 1 T of salt.

Garlic Scape Pesto:
1 lb. of garlic scapes, chopped just a little bit so you can cram them into your food processor.
1+ cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese - first I use the grater attachment, then the attachment that looks like a propeller so the cheese is chopped fine. 
1/4 cup toasted or roasted pine nuts, chopped. I toast them in my toaster oven until lightly browned. My brother (a pesto fanatic) roasts them in a pan over the stove.
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or so. 
Juice of one lemon (I only had 1/2, but it would have been better with a whole.)
Pinch / Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt, to taste
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
(I didn't have any basil leaves on hand, but if I did I would have added about 1/4 cup of them just to accent the garlic scapes. You would add them at the same time as the scapes.)

If you want, you can dump everything in together and just pulverize until everything is in tiny bits -- it's fast and easy. But, I don't love the way the pine nuts and the Parmesan cheese get pasty when I do that. So, first I grate the cheese, set aside. Chop the pine nuts with a hand chopper, set aside. Put the garlic scapes, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper into the food processor and chop until the scapes are finely minced. Then, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor while it's running. Run the food processor for about 10 seconds. Personally, I like to mix in the Parmesan cheese and pine nuts in by hand (so things don't get pasty), however you may be content to dump them into your food processor pulse it a few times just to combine everything. 

Some folks swear by putting a ladle of pasta water into the pesto before tossing it with your pasta. This makes the pesto stick nicely to the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

This makes a good amount of Garlic Scape Pesto. We cooked a pound of pasta and still had some pesto left over. It was delicious. Victor, my food critic, said that it was very good. And then added a few minutes later that it was really, very good! Enjoy.


Sarah said...

I LOVE garlic scape pesto! That was the first new thing I tried from the CSA last year. I had basically the same reaction..."what the heck is a SCAPE?"...but they are delicious. I make the pesto pretty much the same way, food processing everything except the cheese and adding the cheese in by hand. That way, too, you can freeze half for later, just adding in the cheese after the mixture thaws.

Jeanine Juth said...

Where on earth did you get those scapes? We got some in our first CSA basket and we loved them. Did you plant yours? Do you know where I can get some to plant next year? Thanks!

Sandy said...

It's not too late! Yes, I planted the garlic in the fall, two weeks before the ground freezes (approximately). You can look online to order some quickly -- from a seed supply company. Or, I have heard of people planting garlic from the store -- you may want to go for something really nice, like a farmers market or whole foods. Look up online how to plant -- you can see how we did it on my blog. Search: planting garlic.
Good luck!