Scape clause

1 Jul

Cruciferous curse?

The truth about shopping at New England farmers markets between, say, early May and mid-June, is that because it takes so long for the growing season to ramp up, farmers feature all kinds of lesser-known, semi-wacky, cold-tolerant crops. Hence the otherwise unlikely celebration of fiddlehead ferns, ramps, kale, kohlrabi (pictured at right — a close cousin of cabbage), and garlic scapes .

Things improve in June, with the onset of strawberry season. At least, in theory. This year’s berries have come through the biblical floods tasting unusually waterlogged.

So…not the best year (so far). But it does push you out of your tomato/squash/eggplant rut, right? I’ve had some tasty braised kale in recent weeks. And one truly, objectively delicious item on the tables right now? Those garlic scapes.

Here’s a basket of them for sale at Codman Farm in Lincoln this past

The answer? Scape me.

weekend. They’re generally long and curly,

with a bulb at the top. Scapes are the shoots that pop up from the center of garlic bulbs, and, if left alone, will bloom into pretty purple pompoms. But this takes the plant’s energy away from the bulb, so farmers lop off the scapes and, happily for you, sell them at market.

In flavor, they’re milder and sweeter than cloves, and you can substitute them in any garlic-ready recipe. You’ll see them on restaurant menus, grilled whole or puréed in sauces. My batch ended up in two dishes: a variation on pesto, and a lemon-ricotta-garlic bruschetta.

The pesto was a clean-out-the-fridge operation, and I didn’t write down measurements (rusty blogger!). But I used 8 scapes, a nice bunch of basil, including most of the stems (I trimmed off the woodier bottom inch), about 1/2 cup of pine nuts, and, spying some leftover kale, about a cup of chopped leaves. I know! Kale in pesto. But the flavor was undetectable and, you know, anything to get those veggies down! All this went in the food processor, and as it ran, I drizzled in olive oil until the sauce was loose but still a bit chunky. Probably 3/4 cup in all.  Then I added salt and grated Romano cheese to taste (Parmesan is better, but that’s what I had).

Beans and greens

The idea was to use the sauce in a variation on a classic Ligurian dish: Trenette with Pesto, Beans, and Potatoes. But my potatoes were, ahem, past peak. So here’s what we ended up with.

I find this dish is delicate enough to work best with fresh, not dried, pasta. Try trenette, fettucine, or pappardelle.

The next day, we had a friend over for dinner, and, remembering a great garlicky ricotta bruschetta we once had at Tuscan Grill in Waltham, I sliced my remaining four scapes very thinly on the bias (this was a bitch to do, given how curly they are, but I

Friendly toast

wanted them slivery and soft) and cooked them in butter until tender and

fragrant. I toasted some ciabatta slices in a grill pan (raining again!), brushed them with meyer lemon olive oil, and topped them with 1) some Calabro ricotta mixed with a little salt and chopped fresh mint, 2) the garlic scapes, and 3) grated lemon zest and pepper. Without the lemon, they were a little bland, but with that addition, they were seriously tasty, if inartfully styled.


One Response to “Scape clause”

  1. Wendy July 2, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    Never had a scape before…. you’ve left me rather curious. Thanks for the introduction to something totally new!

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