Being born Italian American (or an Italian American mutt, like myself) ensures that you will have two certainties in your life.
1. The muscles in your mouth will be inextricably linked to the muscles controlling your arms/hands. One will not function without the other.
2. You will have garlic pulsing through your veins. Regular consumption of the herb is necessary to survive.
My Nana must have loved me a lot, because growing up, she fed me enough garlic for two lifetimes: fried in the red sauce, chopped up in meatballs, sauteed with wilted spinach and olive oil, softened in hot soups, roasted in the oven, etc, etc… The first time I looked at a recipe book with recipes that didn’t require garlic, I was shocked. Didn’t every meal have to begin with garlic?
I do enjoy garlic, especially roasted in the oven to spread on fresh bread, and it certainly does have its solid place in my kitchen, but there are occasions when the flavor is out of place or too overwhelming or when I choose to have fresh breath, instead.
Then a few years ago, I was introduced to the garlic scape (perhaps Nana’s divine intervention to make sure I was eating my quota of garlic??). Scapes are the green shoots of the garlic plant that grow in curlicued tendrils above ground. It’s the part farmers snip and discard in order to make sure the garlic bulbs below become hearty and flavorful. Previously considered waste, the garlic scape has become a hot ticket item at farm stands in the last several years. Whether it was the ingenious entrepreneurial spirit of the modern farmer that prompted this shift or simply the realization that the shoots taste rather good is no matter; the garlic scape is delicious. It tastes greener than the garlic bulb: fresher, milder, sweeter. You can eat it raw without consequence, chopped and strewn on salads or soups, sauteed with vegetables or blended into a grassy green pesto. I made just that the other night with toasty walnuts and a handful of basil for good measure.
Garlic scapes are another one of those here-today-gone-tomorrow commodities at the market, so hop to it. While you’re there, grab some zucchini and a couple tomatoes, chop them up and saute them with a few tablespoons of the scape pesto (recipe below) and toss it with your favorite pasta for dinner tonight. Oh, and leftover pesto freezes well in individual portions for future meals, if you’re lucky enough to have any left.
Garlic Scape Pesto with Toasted Walnuts
10 garlic scapes
1/3 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 c Romano cheese
1/4 c (6-7 basil leaves)
1/2 c olive oil
cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
Place walnuts in a small saute pan over low heat and allow to toast, stirring occasionally. Watch closely and when nuts become fragrant and begin to brown, remove from pan and allow to cool.
Roughly chop scapes and walnuts and add to a food processor or blender with cheese and basil leaves. Pulse until scapes are broken down and mixture begins to form. Stream in olive oil until it reaches desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Romano cheese is salty on its own, so taste before sprinkling additional salt.