Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garlic scapes: Scary or scrumptious?

There were aliens in our box of organic produce from Fresh Abundance this week. Green and contorted, they actually WRITHED as I pulled them out of the bin.

Garlic scapes. And, spoiler alert, they are scrumptious.

Scapes are the tender above-ground sprouts of a young garlic. As the garlic matures and hardens underground, this sprout, or stem, or whatever, straightens and dries out, but for a magical few weeks in May-June, it's tender, curly and delicious. A curious, redolent mix of onion, garlic and, well, the best way I can put it is, the last taste of spring and the first of summer. Because of their brief window of deliciousness, you probably won't find them stacked in the produce bins at your local grocery store. Chances are, you'll have better luck finding them at farmers' markets or through community-supported agriculture (CSA) vendors.

Last year's mid-June Fresh Abundance box was my first introduction to garlic scapes. WTF? When I pulled the tangled mass of sprouts out of the box, I was truly buffaloed. But, thanks to the miracle of Google, I was rewarded with a rich, pungent scape pesto recipe, which we snacked on the entire following week. Breath mints optional, but recommended.

Monday night, I took a handful of garlic scapes, spread them out in a grill pan and topped them with a salmon fillet seasoned with a little salt, pepper, brown sugar and lemon juice. The Wonderfully Patient Spouse grilled up this concoction to perfection. Toss in a fresh red plum-orange-celery-red onion-ginger salsa, and we were not suffering. The scape are ridiculously tasty grilled -- and still crunchy!The fish infused with just a hint of garlic and onion, and interestingly, extra moist as well. Too bad we ate it all up before I could grab a picture.

Intrigued by the grilled scape application, I tried it with lamb loin chops tonight, adding a couple of stems of mint to keep things interesting. Again, grilled to perfection. Again, yum. Obviously lamb is a gamier piece of meat than fish but it still retained a subtle, smokey garlic nuance. The mint I'm sorry to report basically melted and was not a player.

And once again, we ate it all up before I could grab a picture. I think my career as a food stylist could be in serious trouble.

Alas, I'm now out of garlic scapes, and what with their short season and all, I probably won't see them again till next June. But I've got plans, oh I've plans. Sautes? Gremolata? All of the above? We shall see, we shall see.

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