Garlic Scape Pesto is a magical, flavour-packed green sauce – intensely garlicky and delicious when used raw; gently garlicky and mellow when used warm. You’ll want to hunt down some garlic scapes to make this amazing pesto. (Freezes well, too.) Read on for other ways to use garlic scapes, if you’re lucky enough to get some.
What do you do when the veggie gods grant you a marvelous garlicky gift?
You make Garlic Scape Pesto, of course!
Two days ago a friend dropped off a plastic grocery bag full of fresh garlic scapes she’d just cut in her garden that morning. (Thanks, Ronaye!) I hate to admit such a nerdy thing, but I got giddy with excitement. Do you think maybe I need to lead a little less boring of a life?
Does any kind of food do that to you – make you weak at the knees with anticipation of what you are going to do with it? (Please, please admit that it does and I won’t feel like such a weirdo.) I imagined a bowl full of glistening green pesto, rich and garlicky and ready to slather on pasta, potatoes, or even sandwiches. I thought of grilling some of the wacky-shaped green coils for garnishing all manner of dishes and making them look fancy. I drooled over thoughts of garlic scapes snipped into sautés and hashes, risottos, and stir fries.
Garlic does that to me. I love it in all its forms.
In fact we’re kind of a garlic-loving family. Whenever my relatives get together, it’s not uncommon to find a bowl of peeled garlic cloves on the table at lunch – for guests to help themselves and slice onto their salami sandwiches. Yeah, you probably don’t want to be around us unless you chow down on a clove or two yourself, so you get swallowed into the garlic haze and aren’t fazed by our ‘heavenly perfume’.
What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are the flower stalks and buds of hardneck garlic plants, and they are removed in May or June to encourage the garlic bulbs to grow larger, rather than putting their energy into flower production. Lucky for us garlic lovers, since garlic scapes are delicious – they taste just like garlic but in a more herbaceous, grassy way. Garlic scapes are a delight to use, and their alien-looking tendrils are quite beautiful in their own way. (They actually look lovely tucked into flower bouquets, too.)
If you don’t grow your own garlic, or have a garlic-growing friend, you can find garlic scapes at local farmer’s markets in early summer or sometimes you can find them straightened and bundled at Asian import grocery stores, labeled as garlic stems.
How to Prepare and Store Garlic Scapes
To use them, you snip off the buds and usually just use the stems. If the buds are still soft and tender you can just snip off the long stringy, pointy tips and use the buds too, but if they’re tough, discard the whole flower buds and use only the stems.
Garlic scapes keep for weeks in a loosely closed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They can even be chopped and frozen for use later – no blanching required. Just stick em in a zip-top freezer bag.
How to Use Garlic Scapes
They are delicious grilled – just toss them with a bit of oil and salt and pepper. (Trim off the stringy tips of the buds first). Place the whole scapes directly on the grill and cook them for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. They’re like garlicky grilled asparagus – they just look way cooler. It’s surprising how mild and sweet the garlic flavour gets once the scapes are grilled.
Garlic Scapes can be used raw or cooked: snip them into any kinds of egg or potato dishes, stir fries, frittatas, stews, salads, soups, or make them into this amazingly delicious pesto.
Garlic scape pesto is intense and potently garlicky when raw. A smear on a sandwich or burger is heavenly. However as soon as the pesto is subjected to a whiff of heat, the garlic aroma surprisingly mellows to a sweet savoury umami flavour. It’s tamed right into submission. You’ve got two different beasts in one amazing sauce: a roaring garlic-fierce lion or a sweet garlic-whiffed pussy cat.
Toss a few spoonfuls of it with hot steamed new potatoes and it becomes a gentle green blanket for the spuds. Toss a blob of the shiny green pesto with a pot full of drained hot pasta and you will be smacking your lips in mellow garlic rapture. Or stir a small spoonful into a pot of barely cooked green peas for a delicious side dish. Smear the pesto onto a pizza instead of tomato sauce, or brush it on grilled meats, fish, or kebabs. You can use it in marinades, too.
Stir a spoonful of garlic scape pesto into scrambled eggs, or dollop it on top. Stir it into hot cooked rice or swirl it into cream soups for artistic effect and a fantastic flavour boost. Stir a few spoonfuls of pesto into a homemade vinaigrette to make a delicious salad dressing.
Stir it into equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise for a green garlic dip. Drain a can of cannellini beans and toss them with a spoonful of garlic scape pesto plus some additional oil, vinegar, salt and pepper for a great summer salad.
Use garlic scape pesto wherever you’d use regular pesto. Plus, it freezes well, so you can enjoy it when the depths of winter return to us (pretend I never said that).
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Parsley helps negate the effects of garlic on our breath, so I’m hoping it helps do the same thing in this pesto. Maybe there won’t be dragon breath on the day after eating it! Let me know if it works for you, in the comments below.
Don’t forget that the intense garlic flavour of the raw pesto is totally transformed into mellow garlic delight as soon as it’s exposed to a little bit of heat – even when stirred into hot dishes.
So this pesto is like two different dishes in one: an awesome garlic-powered showstopper when raw and a gentle garlic-infused flavour booster when heated.
Garlic Scape Pesto
- 1 cup (140gms/5oz.) chopped, trimmed garlic scapes
- 1 cup firmly packed parsley (90gms), leaves and stems
- ¼ cup (35gms) pine nuts or pistachios
- ¼ cup (35gms) grated Parmesan cheese
- zest and juice of half an organic lemon (~ 1½ teaspoons zest + 1½ tablespoons juice)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup (120ml) olive oil
Lightly toast the pine nuts or pistachios in a small heavy skillet over medium heat til golden in spots – about 3 to 4 minutes.
In a the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic scapes, parsley (stems and leaves), toasted nuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper.
Process until everything is blitzed up. Leaving the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and keep processing until a smooth chunky sauce is achieved.
Scrape the lovely green pesto into a jar. Seal and refrigerate. Will keep for a week or two in the fridge.
*Garlic Scape Pesto freezes very well. Seal it in small jars or freezer containers and freeze for up to 6 months. Or you can freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop the frozen cubes into a zip-top bag and freeze.
Makes 1½ cups.
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