Monday, June 17, 2013

Garlic [E]Scapes

After waiting desperately for summer to arrive, I am suddenly ready for September.  Five days into summer vacation with both kids at home, fighting, screaming, and scratching, and I will gladly give up all the sun, surf, and swimming for school to begin again. 

There are ten more weeks of this, though, and in order to survive, I needed to do something that was fun for me.  Time to use my kitchen again for something other than microwaving endless chicken nuggets.  Time to try making a new dish.  A trip to the nearby Asian grocery store to find something unusual would do the trick, with the added bonus of distracting and shocking my kids with the store's selections of live sea snails, gutted sharks, and swimming flounder.

While we were there, we perused their produce section, ripe with all kinds of unfamiliar items, some of which I have experimented with before.  Today, they had garlic scapes, and I couldn't resist their curly, tangled greenery.  Lightly fragrant and with budding heads, they joined the pineapple and short-grain rice in my shopping basket and, after we poked more than our fair share of snail bottoms, we headed for home.

A garlic scape is the green shoot that grows out of a garlic bulb.  (You can see the start of it if you leave your garlic out on the counter for too long.)  When garlic grows in the ground, this curly stem will eventually form a flower.  Sometimes gardeners growing garlic cut off the scape so that nutrients aren't diverted from the underground bulb and so they sometimes show up at farmers markets or farm stands.  Recognizable as long curved stalks resembling scallions but with pointy snake-like heads, garlic scapes taste like garlic cloves, smelling just like them when cooked.

There are a lot of recipes out there for Garlic Scape Pesto, which use garlic scapes in place of basil, and I imagine it is good, but I was looking for something simpler that would highlight the true flavor of the scape. 

I chopped the scapes, and sauteed them in olive oil for about 10 minutes.  When they were slightly browned, I hit them with some salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  After tossing them with some cooked spaghetti, I topped the mixture with large grates of real Parmesan cheese.

When cooked, the garlic scapes were almost fruity, with a slightly sweet garlic flavor.  Soft but chewy, they paired perfectly with the grit and salt of the Parmesan cheese.  Although it was very simple, this dish was bright, comforting, and delicious. 

Like every evening, the children were arguing at the dinner table, hopping up to chase each other around the table, and refusing to finish their dinner.  Their antics were easier to tolerate with this meal in front of me, though, making me feel like I could be eating at an upscale restaurant.  It was a garlic [e]scape to a calmer place. 

And after I put the kids to bed, I snuck back downstairs, chopped up some more scapes, sauteed them, and added another generous amount of Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.  True peace and quiet and a delicious late night snack!

I love scapes.