ingredient: garlic scapes

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Late spring/early summer is - by far - my favorite time at the market. It's the season for all things green, a brief window before the multi-hued produce of summer hits stands. It's also a time when I'm likely to find ingredients I've never seen before - which is exactly what occurred at the Union Square Greenmarket, when I fell upon garlic scapes.

I discovered these vibrant green coils between a barrel of string beans and a pile of shallots. Loving all things garlic, I grabbed a few fistfuls and hurried home to do some  research. Apparently, scapes are the flowering stalks of garlic plants, which must be trimmed to allow the bulbs to grow firm and plump. They should be trimmed before they coil more than once, or else they become too fibrous  and spicy.

My first experiment with the scapes involved chopping them into little segments and stir-frying them with baby bok choy. They certainly imparted a pleasant, spicy flavor and crunch, but I didn't feel they were being used to their best advantage. Next up, I threw them into the pickling brew for a bunch of purple carrots. Again, they served their purpose, but regular garlic might have been better.

Finally, I recalled a video recipe by Kinfolk for ribboned asparagus salad.

http://vimeo.com/25385248

At the time, I thought it a beautiful (if slightly tedious) way to prepare asparagus, and mentally filed it away for some special occasion. Upon shredding my first scape ribbon, the kitchen filled with a potent, invigorating garlic odor - and I knew I was onto something.

You could certainly stop there and serve the pan-fried scape ribbons over pasta, but I was more interested in coupling them with other vegetables. Pesto is one of the more common uses for scapes, which made me think of my pesto-loving father, whose favorite food is broccoli rabe. The final product thus became a sort of deconstructed-pesto dish - beautiful, delicious and surprisingly simple for how fancy it looks.

Garlic Scape Ribbons & Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients
  • 8-10 garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 5/6 anchovies
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • olive oil
  • grated cheese (optional)
  • lemon (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash garlic scapes and cut them in half. Using a vegetable peeler, shred the scapes into long ribbons.
  2. Wash broccoli rabe and cut into small pieces. (Only use the parts of the stalk that have leaves/florets).
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan or wok. Add anchovies to pan.
  4. When oil is hot, add broccoli rabe and garlic scapes. Stir periodically.
  5. After about a minute, toss in the chopped walnuts.
  6. Cook until greens are tender, but the scapes should still be al dente.
  7. Remove from heat, dress with grated parmesan and lemon juice to taste.