Garlic scapes are a lovely little seasonal veggie bonus - the very first shoots the garlic bulb sends up as it grows. They're trimmed off early in the process to pave the way for another garlic growth spurt and are a staple of CSA's and farmers' markets everywhere (man, that sentence is an apostrophe disaster, apologies, grammar nerds). Here in the Northeast, we get them at the end of June. I don't think they're generally available at your neighborhood supermarket, because they're really just a byproduct of the garlic farming process.
I first encountered scapes at our very first CSA pickup and had never heard of them before. Which of course required prompt googling. Whereupon I found a lovely explanation and recipe via the Washington Post's food blog. It turns out there are plenty of things you can do with a garlic scape, but most of them require more than the paltry 4 that came from the CSA this week. For instance, people just love them sauteed in a little lemon a la asparagus or broccoli rabe (something else I would love to get from the CSA but so far no sign of it - why do we get all the weird vegetables, and none of the ones I happen to be salivating over?). But the idea of two people sitting down to a meal of two scapes apiece was depressing, and I wanted to flex my culinary muscles.
So I settled on a pesto. I'm addicted to pesto, but so far in my life I've mainly known it to come out of a jar. Which is sad, when you think about it. I've also pretty much only had the basil and pine nut variety. So this recipe intrigued me. As a first week gimme bonus, it turns out that pesto is dead easy to make and takes all of 5 minutes.
4 garlic scapes (feel free to double or triple this if you get your hands on a ton of scapes, but 4 was plenty for a meal for 2 or 3, maybe even 4 servings as a side or piatti primi sort of thing)
About 3/8 of a cup of chopped walnuts. Eyeballed of course; if I were accomplished enough to measure out three eighths of a cup I could hardly call myself cucinaphobic. If I make this again, though, I might add more walnuts.
Enough olive oil to get the job done
Heaps and heaps of parmigiano reggiano, shredded
Salt? I might have also added salt.
The Rest Of The Recipe:
Trim off the very top flower-bud end of the scapes, and chop them into quarter-inch segments, kind of like you're chopping green onions. Except way harder, because the scapes are all twisty. You're probably going to want to do it one at a time. Which made the fact that I only got 4 kind of nice -- this was by far the longest and most involved part of the recipe.
Throw the scapes and walnuts into your cuisinart (you have one of those, right?) and pulse until everything is sort of a dry paste. Start adding oil. Because I was halving the original recipe, I really eyeballed it and have no idea how much I ended up using. I just drizzled and pulsed, drizzled and pulsed, till it started resembling the pesto we all know and love. It will turn a lovely chartreuse color, and look like springtime personified. When you're happy with the amount of oil, you can plop the mixture into a bowl and start adding cheese. I also eyeballed this because I am a cheese freak and knew I probably wouldn't be satisfied with the amount in the recipe. Also I really can't be bothered to measure out exact portions of grated cheese. Mix the cheese in well with a wooden spoon.
From here you can serve it over pasta right away, though it will keep in a jar or tupperware or something in the fridge for a while, with a little extra oil drizzled over the top so it doesn't dry out. You can apparently freeze it at the pre-cheese stage -- I'm thinking about doing that next time, since scapes are so rare and seasonal. 4 scapes makes maybe 4 or 5 ounces of pesto, depending on walnut and cheese quantities.
The taste is impossible to describe. I guess I'd say that garlic scapes are to garlic as scallions/green onions are to onion. Sort of mild and green and fresh tasting, and not strong at all. I served it with penne, even more cheese, a little chopped parsley, and fresh pepper. It. Was. Outrageously. Good.