Friday, July 13, 2012

Garlic Scape Pesto

One of the last times I went to see Dave on the farm, he had some food-loving friends visiting from NYC. We were spoiled by their cooking all weekend. For me, the food highlight was the pesto. His friend Matt made it using fresh garlic scapes, spinach, and arugula straight from the farm. It was decadent to say the least. 

Once I got back to Portland, I swiftly made my own batch. I didn’t have enough kale or arugula in the garden to bulk up the pesto, but I’ve got about a dozen baby basil plants that are slowly growing. I picked a couple small handfuls and, ahem, bought some chard at the store. The chard I bought was colossal, making it a little too chewy and tough for pesto. I would use younger, more tender chard next time.

So, what are scapes, anyway? 

They are the flower shoots of the hardneck garlic varieties, which are the preference of restaurant chefs. 'Softneck' is the kind that you find in the grocery store because it stores better. Softneck is the type that you can braid and hang.

If you're not growing your own hardneck garlic, you should be able to find scapes at a natural grocery store, or most certainly at your nearest farmer's market.

Scapes are like asparagus in texture and faintly in taste, but with an ever-present garlic undertone. They manage to avoid the sharpness of fresh garlic, while still retaining that delightful garlic flavor. You can certainly prepare them like you would asparagus, simply pan-fried or steamed. Dave likes to dice them, fry em', and throw them in with scrambled eggs. A family friend of mine likes to grill them.

Garlic Scape Pesto

6 - 8 garlic scapes
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups basil, loosely packed
2 1/2 cups tender chard or spinach leaves, roughly torn and loosely packed
salt and pepper
about 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 cup grated parmesan

Remove the flowers and 1/2-inch off of the tough bottoms of each scape. Cut shoots into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Throw into a food processor or blender and puree until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Add the pine nuts.  Pulse a couple of times to coarsely grind the pine nuts.

Add the chard.  Pulse a few times, until the chard is well-blended.  Add the basil and pulse until a rough paste forms.  Season well with salt and pepper. 

Leaving on the food processor or blender, slowly add the oil.  Turn off the machine and scrape out the pesto into a medium-sized bowl.  Fold in the parmesan.  Drizzle with a bit more oil. 

Toss with pasta, spread onto bread for a sandwich or dollop onto pizza. Store in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for several months.  

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