May 22, 2013

How to Cook with Scapes

As spring warmth bathes the earth, garlic sends up flower shoots. These shoots, called "scapes," are not only edible, but are considered something of a delicacy. But what fewer people realize (including yours truly, until a friend recently enlightened me) is that scapes from leeks and onions - which sometimes send up flower shoots if the weather is a bit unpredictable - are equally tasty.

You may find scapes at farmer's markets in the spring - or you may find them in your garden. Farmers and gardeners have good reason for snipping scapes off before they bloom: This allows the plant to put its energy into making bigger garlic cloves, leek bottoms, and onion bulbs.

What Do Scapes Taste Like?
Scapes taste like a more mild-tasting version of the plant they grow from. Garlic scapes taste like mild garlic, leek scapes taste like milder leeks, and onion scapes taste like mild onions. And, despite what some say, all parts of scapes are edible and tasty. The tougher parts (near the bottom of the stem) are fine once they are cooked and buds have the same flavor and texture as the stem.

Garlic scape.
How to Cook with Scapes
The easiest way to use scapes is to chop them up and use them just like you'd use garlic, leeks, or onions. For example, garlic scapes are a perfect substitute in recipes calling for garlic. If you have a lot of scapes, chop them up, stick them in a freezer bag, and freeze them. You can use them in cooking without defrosting them first. (If they clump together, just bang the bag on the counter to loosen them up.)

But there's much more you can do with scapes. Here are my favorites:

* Grilled Scapes. Brush them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over direct heat for about 1 minute, turn and cook about another minute. If you like, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and flaky salt.

<![endif]-->* Scape pesto. Use your favorite basil pesto recipe, but substitute 1/4 inch pieces of scapes for the basil. (Omit any garlic the recipe may call for.)

* Pickled scapes. These are costly in gourmet food stores, but you can easily make them at home. Heat 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 4 teaspoons kosher or canning salt, and 4 teaspoons sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve and bring to a simmer. Warm a canning jar by running hot tap water over it. Coil the scapes into the jar. If you like, add one whole chile. Pour the hot vinegar liquid over the scapes, covering them completely. Put a plastic lid on the jar and allow the jar to come to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 6 weeks before eating.

Stir fried garlic scapes.
* Stir fried scapes. Add chopped scapes to your favorite stir fry. 

 * Steamed scapes. Cut scapes into 1 or 2 inch pieces and steam until just tender.

* Sauteed scapes. Blanch the scapes in boiling water for 1 minute, then immedietly drain and place in ice water. Heat some olive oil in a skillet until a drop of water in the pan sizzles. Drain the scapes and pour into the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring 2 or 3 times. Season with 1 teaspoon Old Bay Blackened Seasoning, if desired. Cook until scapes begin turning golden, about 2 minutes.

* Scape seasoning. Chop the scapes and sprinkle on eggs, casseroles, and any dish where you'd normally use chives.

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered garlic scapes at our neighborhood farmer's market last year. I'm now officially obsessed. We've grilled them and sauteed them so far this year, and I'm anxious to try the pesto. Yum yum! I'll be posting a tortellini with scapes recipe later this week. It was deeeelicious!
    Stopping in from the Tuesday Garden Party.