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It's the season of overflowing market bags, heavy CSA boxes, and gardens run amok. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra Cooks is showing us how to store, prep, and make the most of the bounty, without wasting a scrap.
Today: Whip those garlic scapes into shape -- but make sure you save some for sautéeing, deep-fying, topping pizzas, and more.
Does it sound like too much? Garlic dipped in garlic? Perhaps for a first date, but otherwise, I can’t find a good reason not to make these feather-light tempura scapes immediately. This time of year, bags filled with the serpentine stems can be found everywhere at farmers markets, and unlike many of the fleeting jewels of summer, garlic scapes are a bargain.
Scapes grow from hardneck garlic bulbs, and farmers trim them because they draw energy away from the forming bulbs. They taste sweet, like a chive or scallion with a milder but familiar garlicky zing. Finely sliced, scapes can be used just the same as garlic cloves: sautéed with vegetables, puréed into pesto and hummus, roasted with meats and vegetables.
They also can be lightly battered and fried, which tempers their pungency, giving them almost a green bean quality, both in taste and texture. When fried, moreover, scapes become more than just a flavor enhancement, they can be the main show. A one pound bag of scapes, trimmed into six-inch lengths and fried in small batches, will feed a crowd.
And while frying might feel too much like hard work this time of year, the process moves along quickly, each stem getting a quick dip in an icy tempura batter followed by a quick sizzle in oil. And then your work is done: Pull out a zesty aioli made with minced scapes, capers, and red pepper flakes, slice up some cucumbers, toss together some greens, and call dinner done. This is summer eating at its best.
To store and prep your scapes:
• Scapes couldn't be more low-maintenance. They rarely have a speck of dirt on them, and they will keep for weeks (months!) tucked in a bag in your vegetable drawer.
• Before using them, cut off the stringy, fibrous tip from the flower end, and trim off the very bottom of the stem.
More ideas for cooking your scapes:
• Use scapes just as you would garlic, finely chopped (though not necessarily minced as you typically would with garlic) and sautéed in butter or olive oil. Make a summery sauté with scapes, zucchini, onions, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes -- any of your favorite summer vegetables. Top pizza with sautéed scapes and the garlicky olive oil you sautéed them in.
• Add scapes to your scrambled eggs: finely chop one garlic scape; sauté over low heat in butter until slightly tender and scrape out of the pan; scramble two eggs in the pan with more butter if needed; add scapes back, plus a pinch of salt, and a small handful of grated cheese; season with lots of pepper and serve with toast.
• Purée the scapes raw and add to hummus, pesto, aioli, and mayonnaise.
• When scapes are steamed until tender, their resemblance to green beans is striking. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil or butter.
• Cut them into 6-inch lengths, and pickle them with spices (mustard seeds, peppercorns, fennel seed, cumin) and a vinegar-salt-sugar mix.
• Just as you would chives or scallions, finely chop scapes and bake them into savory biscuits, muffins, or scones.
• Scapes can be grilled but be careful: they quickly turn from brown and caramelized to burnt and inedible. Trim the ends of the scapes as described above. Toss scapes with olive oil and salt, and grill over high heat -- no more than 4 minutes total.
• Finally, because scapes are milder than garlic, they can be chopped and added raw to any salad or slaw.
For the aioli:
4 or 5 garlic scapes, straggly tips removed
1 tablespoon capers
1 egg yolk
Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or vegetable
1 tablespoon vinegar (optional)
For the tempura scapes:
1 pound garlic scapes
3 to 4 cups of canola oil for deep frying
2 egg yolks
2 cups ice water
1/4 cup ice cubes
2 cups flour, cake or all-purpose
Nice salt such as fleur de sel or Maldon for sprinkling
Garlic scape aioli for serving
Photos by Alexandra Stafford