Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto

Such an astonishing discovery this has been!  Garlic scapes are my new favorite food—though I have none left in the garden. 
Garlic Scapes, ready to chop for pesto

As everyone who knows me will attest, garlic is an absolute staple in my kitchen.  Hot and biting, raw garlic puts its distinctive kick in a vinaigrette or an aioli, lifting a simple salad or vegetable—even meat—to a complexity of taste that is unique.  When garlic is roasted, it loses a lot of its pungency, but develops a soft sweetness that is also as good a complement for any dish.  In addition, garlic has been shown to be a natural antibiotic, with the added benefit of not succumbing to “superbugs”.  Garlic is an antioxidant, working against “free radicals” in the body.  It has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.  For all these reasons, I love garlic.
But I had no idea that the little curling thing with the little bulb at the top of a growing garlic plant, the scape, was not only edible—but also delicious.  When I went online to find out more (don’t we all love the internet?), I discovered that I would have bigger garlic bulbs if I cut off the scape from each plant.  I also found ways for preparing it that presented a whole new world of taste discovery.  Apparently, scapes are very popular in Asian dishes: sautéed, fried, chopped, any way imaginable.  But I was most intrigued with Rudy’s Garlic Scape Pesto, a little item I found in  I would give it a try, though I’d have to modify it to fit the ingredients I had on hand.
With a little piece of salmon to cook simply on the grill, I would complement that with a little lemon/pepper papardelle from Trader Joe’s and two stalks of asparagus I found hiding in the Russian kale in my garden. 
Russian Kale, versatile and delicious, good in salad or sauteed

Since the asparagus and kale were growing together, why not cook them together?  Some sliced tomatoes in balsamic vinaigrette and basil, and the scape pesto might be a really lovely dinner for two.
I think I was most surprised by the subtle sweetness of the scape pesto, and that I could only taste a hint of garlic.  Light green in color, almost like a guacamole, it was silken smooth and rich with the distinctive nuttiness of the cheese—and of course, the pine nuts.  The pesto complemented the delicate flavor of the salmon, yet balanced the strong taste of the sautéed kale and asparagus.  And it was buttery smooth tossed into the papardelle.  Now I have a little jar of this amazing pesto tucked away in the refrigerator, ready to bring out again, probably for our next meal!

Scape Pesto with Salmon, Papardelle, and Sautéed Kale and Asparagus
6-8 scapes, chopped
1” square chunk of asiago, cut up
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Whir first 3 ingredients in bowl of food processor, and add olive oil in a thin stream, then lemon juice.  Pesto should be fresh bright green and smooth when finished.  Makes one cup of pesto.
Cut the asparagus into pieces about 1”.  Chop one bunch of kale and steam for about 3-4 minutes before adding to asparagus. Sauté in 1 teaspoon olive oil and 4 small cloves garlic for about 5 minutes.
Cook enough papardelle for two according to package instructions.  Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon scape pesto.
Grill foil-wrapped salmon filet topped with thinly sliced lemon and salt and pepper.
Slice one tomato and arrange on two plates.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette on each half and top with fresh basil.
Serve with ½ teaspoon pesto on fish and on kale/asparagus sauté.


  1. If you don't grow garlic do they sell this anywhere perhaps? This recipe would be wonderful to try!

  2. I found them last year at LFP farmers' market, Probably available in an Asian market as well. Maybe Central Market. If I find them, I'll get some for you as well.