Guest Post: For the Love of Garlic Scapes

One of the most wonderful and fleeting delights of spring has arrived… garlic scapes!

For those who are not yet acquainted, garlic scapes are the flowering bud of hardneck varieties of garlic. They shoot up in the spring and are generally cut off to divert energy back into the bulb to give us larger cloves later in the season. The loopy scapes taste very much like a clove of garlic with the addition of the verdant green flavor of spring.

Several farmers at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market offer scapes for the few weeks they are popping up. For those readers who may be growing hardneck garlic at home, choose the right time to harvest your scapes. The longer they grow the more lovely they are to look at, but as they mature they can become hotter in flavor and develop fibrous stems that aren’t as easy to cook or eat. Younger scapes can be used raw, such as finely minced in a vinaigrette or sliced and used as garnish like scallions or chives. More mature scapes can be cooked to mellow their flavor. They can be used in any dish that could benefit from garlic flavor, such as sautéing them with the greens that are readily available this time of year. Garlic scapes can also be preserved and would yield great pickles plus a really flavorful brine that could be used to make a delicious salad dressing.

I have two must-make items during garlic scape season: Scape Pesto and Scape Chimichurri. Both store well in the refrigerator and the pesto can be frozen for a treat later in the year when there is not a scape in sight. The pesto could be frozen but will darken due to the herb content.

Pesto is more of a formula than a recipe, though for those who prefer directions, try this recipe from Epicurious.

If you are ready for pesto 201, try:

  • changing up the nuts (and always toast & cool them before you blend them!) Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, maybe even pistachios?
  • try another hard cheese for a different flavor, or leave out the cheese entirely (and definitely skip the cheese if you’re going to be freezing the pesto)

Prepared scape pesto can be used like traditional pesto with pasta or potatoes, mixed with butter or additional olive oil to be eaten with bread, used as the base of a vinaigrette, used as the finishing touch on a simple soup, and so many other ways.

Calling this next formula/recipe a chimichurri is really a stretch, but hopefully the flavor will give me permission to take liberties. This is really a sauce that uses the abundance of our local farms, farmers’ market or gardens and packs it all into one super tasty mix. The herbs in this “chimichurri” are really flexible, so substitute what you like or use what you have on hand.

Garlic Scape Chimichurri
1 bunch garlic scapes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions (green ends only) or chives
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes (or a small chili pepper or the heat source of your choice)
optional Olive oil

Toss all of the herbs, spices and vinegar in the food processor, drizzle in oil as it blends until the sauce has reached desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This is great as a marinade or as a sauce with grilled meat or vegetables. It is also delicious with a bit more vinegar as a salad dressing. This chimichurri stores well in the fridge, but will darken with age.

This season, join the cult of the scape. Chances are you’ll come up with a thousand more ways to use them just as they’re leaving the market, so don’t forget to make a list for next year!

Week 5 Market Menu: Summer is Coming!

This week at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market and Artists’ Alley:

Seasonal: Greens: Arugula, LOTS of Lettuces, Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach and Collard Greens!  Root Veg: Beets, Carrots, Potatoes, Radishes, and Turnips.  Summer squashes, including Zucchini!!  Herbs: Cilantro, Dill, Mint.  Kohlrabi and Cabbage!  And Strawberries!!!!

All Summer: Eggs, chicken, beef, oats, wheat, cornmeal, pork, cheese, honey, baked goods, lavender, mushrooms, popcorn, and much more. See the complete list of vendors at this year’s market for more information about produce and products.

 

 

It’s a short one this week!!

Breakfast Ideas:

I’ve been starting to crave smoothies in the morning, now that it’s getting warmer. And it might be all in my head, but I do feel like greens in the morning help keep me awake and alert until lunch. A quick trip in the blender, pop it in a cup and I can hit the road with my breakfast, which is an extra plus for me. I usually wing it, as far as a recipe. I start with around 12 oz milk (almond or soy milk works, too!) and protein powder. Then, flavor!  Frozen bananas and a handful of kale is my go-to, but I also like kale with frozen peaches, or spinach and frozen mango and banana!  Citrus is a nice balance to the green. I use a regular blender, and just start with a handful of greens at first. Search “Green Smoothie” and you’ll find literally dozens of recipes/combinations. Check out this list from DailyBurn.com.

 

Lunch Ideas:

Last week, I mostly stuck to a bagel or crackers, some Little Bloom on the Prairie with a touch of honey, and a handful of greens for lunch. Add just a touch of good olive oil and a splash of your favorite flavored balsamic vinegar to the greens, and you’re good to go! Here are a few other ideas for enjoying local produce in your lunches this week:

  • Radishes with garlic scape butter – add some crackers and cheese, and you have lunch!
  • Roast chicken (whole or parts) w/ a little olive oil, cool, then break down and portion out
  • Wheat berries are delicious in salads!
  • Hard-boil some eggs over the weekend, and add them to your lunchboxes during the week

 

Dinner Ideas:

  • If you’re grilling burgers or brats, slice up some turnips (less than 1/4″ thick) and put the finished grilled meat on top of the slices. The heat (temperature) of the meat softens up the turnips and dulls the heat (bite!) of the turnip. For someone like me, who’s not accustomed to the flavor of turnips, it’s a nice way to enjoy their flavor without the spiciness.
  • Pasta salads are a lovely way to avoid having the stove on at dinnertime. You can cook the pasta the night before, and dress it with your favorites. This one with swiss chard and garlic scape pesto looks delicious. Green garlic or garlic scapes would be great, especially with a little lemon zest and radishes.
  • Did you remember to pull some meat out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner? I wish I could consistently remember to do that!
  • Double up on things that require the oven, like casseroles or roasted veggies or meat. Plan to have leftovers for dinner the next day! Something like this chicken and kale casserole, or this spinach and egg strata.
  • If you grill or roast veggies and have leftovers, and are wondering what to do with them, why not try a Buddha bowl? Just add some grain and your favorite things from your fridge, basically. It works. Surprisingly well.

 

 

Prep-Freeze-Cook(ish), Part 1: Putting a Meal Together from Your Freezer

In our household, no one likes to cook during the week. I envy those people who say that cooking dinner helps them relax – executing a meal on a Tuesday night is right up there for me with being tied to my couch and forced to binge-watch The Lawrence Welk Show.

So in order to avoid a Weekday Jennifer Meltdown, we (and we is mostly me unless it’s grilling season) do as much batch cooking on the weekends as possible with the plan to get lunches and dinners for two through Thursday. In short, we live for leftovers – prized in our household for thrift, convenience, and the chance to eat more of what you enjoyed a night or two ago.

I’ve also learned to help myself out by stocking the freezer with meal “parts” in the same way you stock a pantry: items that you can pull out, thaw, pair with fresh items (or other leftovers), and get on with your evening.

A great, cheap, nutritious staple to have in the freezer is brown rice. I freeze large batches of brown rice so that I can make Bhudda bowls, a stir fry, or a quick pilaf, and rice is a great supporting character when you’ve got fresh vegetables to use.

The most ingenious way to make brown rice – ready for this? – is in your oven. Alton Brown’s strategy is one that can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen in small batches. (My go-to freezer storage is an old school deli container. For years I hoarded/obsessively guarded a collection of containers from Thai and Chinese takeout until it dawned on me that you can buy anything on the interwebs.) I store 32-ounce containers of rice and take them out a day or two ahead of when I’ll need to use them – or in a pinch, you can certainly defrost in the microwave.

Along with fresh vegetables, I also try to keep things like edamame beans, peas and other frozen veggies around for stir fry.

We’ve got an entire season of fresh veggies just begging to make friends with brown rice, so here are some options to check out to help you avoid Weekday Meal Meltdown:

Spring Green Stir Fry: Fried Rice with Collards (any green leafy will work here)

Mid-Summer Buddha Bowls: Oh She Glows Summer Bhudda Bowls, One Green Planet Veggie Bowls,

Almost Anytime Bowl: Sweet Potato Chick Pea Buddha Bowl

 

Enjoy!

— J.S.