I. Love. Garlic scapes. Scapes are the flower stalk of hardneck garlic plants. They develop about a month after the plant sprouts are often cut off to produce a bigger bulb. The entire stalk is edible and has a lovely, mild garlic flavor that goes well in any dish that calls for garlic. You can find garlic scapes at your local farmer’s market from late spring to early summer. Anden and I got some with our CSA box this week and Echollective usually has an abundance of them, so if you ever find yourself at the Iowa City farmer’s market, you should check them out! In addition to selling CSA memberships, they always bring some extra veg to market, so even if you’re not a member, you’ll have to opportunity to try some of their delicious produce.
The next big question of course, is what the heck to do with these things after you’ve found them. I’ll admit that my first ever encounter with garlic scapes was kind of intimidating, but with a little creativity and some determination, I came up with a handful of recipes using scapes by the end of last year’s season. If you do a search online for garlic scape recipes, chances are you’ll come up with a lot of ways to make pesto. While it’s not that I don’t enjoy pesto, there are just so many other ways I love to use these curlicue beauties. Here are two of my favorites:
Infused Olive Oil
Use this for anything you would normally use olive oil. Last year I drizzled it over salads, simmered it with Bolognese sauce, and sauteed it with just about every vegetable you can think of. It imparts a gentle hint of garlic to whatever dish you serve it in, without overpowering it. Here’s what you need to get started.
Feel free to add any other fresh herbs you wish, just remember to let them dry completely after you wash them. You’ll want to avoid adding any water to the oil because it will encourage microbial growth. I particularly enjoy adding a couple sprigs of rosemary to this, but play around with it and find a flavor you love!
At this point I have to confess that I misjudged the capacity of my mason jar ever so slightly and was about 4 tablespoons shy of the two cups. While this isn’t an exact science, it still helps to double check your tools before you start :-)
After you’ve added the oil to the jar, seal it tightly and store it in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. Give it about two weeks to steep and get ready to use it on everything!
This next recipe I really love because I was able to use three ingredients from this week’s CSA box.
This is my favorite Pan-Asian appetizer to order from restaurants.The meat pictured is elk (because we were just at the farmer’s market and I’m always looking for something new and unusual to try!), but I would usually do this with ground beef or Boca veggie crumbles for days I’m just not feeling the meat.
Here is what you’ll need:
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 large onion, diced
scant 1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes
1 tbsp soy sauce (I used shoyu, the Japanese-style soy sauce)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (Available in gluten-free versions)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp rice vinegar
chili pepper sauce, to taste (my grandmother swears by Cholula, so I use it for everything!)
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 bunch spring onions, (1/2 cup chopped)
2 tsp sesame oil
~16 lettuce leaves
You’ll want to chop the scapes into small disks, omitting the flower head
Rinse the lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not to tear them. Set aside. In a medium skillet, brown the meat over medium-high heat in the canola oil until just browned. The meat will go back into the pan at the end, so you’ll want to to be just a little pink when you first remove it to avoid drying it out. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered juice and oil in the skillet. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring occasionally, for ~5 minutes. Add the scapes, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chili pepper sauce to the onions and toss to coat. Add the chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and ground meat. Continue cooking until the spring onions are just wilted, ~2 minutes. To serve, use the lettuce leaves to hold the filling and eat it like a wrap.
Fun-Sized Food Science!
The secret to tear-free onion chopping? Use a sharp knife. The sharper the knife, the less you crush the onion as you chop. When you cut into an onion, an enzyme called Lachrymatory-factor synthase is released into the air. This enzyme converts the amino acids in the onion into the chemical syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which is a powerful eye-irritant. It also helps to lean back a little bit so your face isn’t hovering over the cutting board. If you’re already tearing up, light a candle near the cutting board to burn up excess chemical in the air around your work space.