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Volume 40 Issue 5 • June 3-9, 2010
now in our 40th season

Garlic Scapes & Fresh Herbs

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

One of my favorite spring activities is to work in my yard.  I say yard, because I don’t really have a garden, well not a traditional garden anyway.  My young son likes to dig holes, BIG holes.  He enjoys it so much, that I have given up trying to dissuade him from digging, and instead have begun filling them with random plants, flowers, and bushes (whichever is appropriate for the area and gap size).  At first it seemed a little ridiculous, but now my little yard is coming together, even if it is a bit eclectic.  Among my favorite plantings has been a small patch of herbs and edible flowers.  Though it is incidental, the combination of violets, pansies, fresh thyme, and chives have been a lovely flavor and color combination in spring greens salads.

A friend of mine recently suggested planting garlic in one of the unexpected new chasms.  At first I dismissed the idea, but then he told me how easy it is to grow, and brought me a few scapes from his own garden.  I have had limited exposure and experience with garlic scapes, but I find them intriguing and have had a lot of fun researching and experimenting with them.  The scape is just the flowering stem part of the garlic plant.  It is mild in flavor, and is best for cooking (and eating) before the flowers develop.  Garlic scapes may or may not be available in the grocery, but mild onions like scallions, leeks, or ramps can be easily substituted in most recipes, although the flavor will be different.  Green garlic is often substituted for scapes.  Green garlic is the immature garlic plant, before the cloves develop.  The look similar to scallions and can be substituted for them in recipes for a unique flavor.  Garlic scapes and green garlic could be used interchangeably in recipes, but there is a slight flavor and texture difference. 

Some of the more interesting recipes I found included making garlic scape pesto, grilled scapes, and a garlic scape stir fry .  The stir fry recipe actually inspired me to make the following, since the flavor reminded me so much of leeks.  I love to cook leeks into risotto, so scapes in this recipe were an easy transition. 

Garlic Scape and Wild Mushroom Risotto

  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 Garlic scapes cleaned and sliced
  • One half cup wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Leek sliced & washed with multiple soakings of water to remove all grit
  • 1-1/2 cups risotto
  • 5 to 5-1/ 2 cups chicken stock, hot
  • 1/2 cup white wine, dry
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • Parmesan or asiago cheese, grated or shredded

In a heavy bottom pot with a lid heat the butter and olive oil.  Add leeks, garlic scapes, and a pinch of salt and wild mushrooms.  Sauté for a few minutes until the leeks are translucent, and all the vegetables are nearly soft (should only take a couple minutes). 

Add the Arborio rice and sauté for a couple minutes, or until the grains become a little translucent around the edges.  Add the wine, and stir while cooking the rice, until the wine is absorbed. 
Add ½ cup hot stock to the rice mixture, and cook, allowing rice to absorb all the moisture before adding another half cup of hot liquid. 

Cook the rice until it is firm to the bite, but not crunchy.  Add a couple tablespoons of cream, and grated parmesan, and fresh herbs to finish the risotto before serving.   This recipe is especially delicious with grilled lamb, or herbed chicken.  I like to add a few green peas, spinach, or even chopped asparagus near the end of cooking for variety.     Serves 4

I found I really loved the garlic scapes grilled; the texture reminded me of asparagus or fiddle head ferns.  The flavor was mild and delicious.  Grilling scapes or almost any other vegetable is really easy.  First make certain the vegetables have been washed.  Next slice or cut any larger vegetables, like zucchini, so they cook thoroughly.  Brush all the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, then place on the already preheated grill.  Cook to desired doneness.  They can be served whole or cut into bite sized pieces, and tossed together as a hot or cold vegetable salad. 

Another great spring crop is my favorite, arugula.  It is lovely served hot or cold, and pairs well with just about anything.  Here is a quick and very flavorful recipe that made a delicious meal along with the previous risotto dish, and herbed, grilled chicken. 

Arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/2  pound arugula
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, all halved
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly grated parmesan or asiago, or other hard and pungent, grating cheese

Make vinaigrette from the lemon juice, olive oil, and zest.  Toss the remaining ingredients with the dressing.  Taste the salad, and check for seasoning, I usually end up adding a little kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Can be eaten as a salad or served on a baguette with some thinly slice prosciutto for a snack.    Salad serves 2-4  

Figs are a great flavor combination with all these late spring foods.  We had Fig jam on crostini with a cheese platter after enjoying the above dinner of arugula salad, garlic scape risotto, and herbed chicken.  They fit so well, especially when pairing your meal with a bottle or two of wine.  Figs and wine are just about perfect together, but add cheese and nuts to the combo and it will almost always be a winner. 

Crostini with Fig Jam and Cheese Assortment

  • Crostini, crackers or thinly sliced baguettes
  • Fig jam or thinly sliced fresh figs
  • Manchego, Blue Cheese, Brie or any assortment of your favorite eating cheeses

Eat crostini with slices of cheese topped with a little fig jam or fresh figs.  So many variations can be made from this, and an assortment of cheese is a great idea, since everyone has favorite flavor combinations.  Quince paste, or honey can be substituted for the fig if you so desire. 

Enjoy the rest of your spring, eat well, and enjoy all the incidentals that may happen to you along the way.  Especially the holes.

 

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