The area where we grow garlic used to be a swimming pool. It was filled-in with wonderful soil and compost, but the stones that defined the rectangular pool are still there, outlining our dense forest of garlic. We all moved into the patch with our clippers and scissors last week to trim the curling scapes. Hard-necked varieties send up these graceful stalks. When they curl back on themselves like the neck of a swan, you trim them down so their energy goes underground into the bulbs, not into the flowers. We ringed them on our arms like African bracelets.
The garlic scapes are really little pre-gifts the garlic gives us — a seasonal reason to celebrate. They’re juicy and fragrant and taste young and grassy. The bulbs need ripening and curing to develop their familiar, deeper flavors.
Make pesto from the garlic scapes, just like you do with basil. Try almonds, walnuts or pistachio in the paste. Toss in a couple of minced anchovies, a shake of hot pepper flakes and some dried breadcrumbs. Sprinkle them into salad dressing or onto potatoes, like chives. Sauté them lightly so they stay bright-green, and throw them into a quiche or onto pizza, polenta or pasta with some Parmesan.
The other night, I planned to broil a wide filet of Copper River salmon for a dinner with friends. After leaving the fish in my standard marinade (brown sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, tarragon, whole-grain mustard and olive oil) for a couple of hours, I decided to brighten it up with a tablespoon of garlic scape gremolata on top of each serving. The classic Italian condiment is traditionally made with lemon rind, garlic and parsley and often accompanies osso buco or dresses vegetables, such as cauliflower, string beans or roasted potatoes.
For this version of garlic scape gremolata, I roughly chopped a few garlic scapes (when they are new and young you can use almost the whole 2 feet of each) and flat-leafed parsley. I used lime zest because I had a lime, and because I thought the warm, more tropical flavor would be nice with the rich salmon.
Garlic Scape Gremolata
Yield: about 1/3 cup
- 2 to 3 garlic scapes, chopped
- 3 to 4 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, chopped
- zest of a lime (or lemon)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
Warm the olive oil and sauté everything until the chopped scapes have softened. Season to taste. Serve at will.