These crazy vegetables – long coiled green things – show up in the farmers’ markets in June. “Garlic scapes,” say the hand-written signs. Sounds good, but what does a person do with garlic scapes in the kitchen?
Scapes are the green stems of the garlic plants, trimmed in the spring to prevent their blooms from sucking energy from the precious bulb below. I have been buying scapes from farmers for at least a dozen years, but until recently I have limited my culinary use of garlic scapes to places where I would have used green onions – maybe in a stir-fry, or chopped up into tuna salad or a pasta sauce. I find they are a good garlic stand-in, arriving in time to save me from despair when the last of my winter storage garlic runs out and the new crop is not yet ready.
Last spring, I started to get a little more creative. (Aside: you would think I would spend a little more time on kitchen creativity, being a chef and all. But chefs are famously un-creative at home, burned out on cooking from doing it all day. To say nothing of the two kids and after-school activities I have to juggle along with dinner time.)
This is what happened: A friend told me about her family’s recipe for pickled garlic scapes – I immediately imagined mini super-garlic cornichons to have with cheese or in vegetable salads. Mmmm! And so I made them and they are KILLER. Next, a moment of desperation led to an inspired twist on my family’s favourite garlic-pepper steak rub. Think about a pesto-like mixture of black pepper and green garlic scapes, and then think about how great that would taste on steak.
Pickling the garlic scapes uses up the most, so that would be the recipe to use if you have a lot of scapes on hand, or if you want the flavour to last through the winter. Jars of the pickles would make lovely gifts, as well. The steak rub recipe is more useful, though. It comes in handy to help make an easy and delicious full meal, rather than just a condiment. But garlic scapes are so plentiful right now that you can easily buy enough to make both recipes.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Makes 2 pints.
These refrigerator pickles are easy to make and require no special equipment. They will last over a year in the fridge. Enjoy with cheese and crackers or chopped into salads (potato salad is especially good). Feel free to cut the recipe in half, or to double it.
You will need 2 sterilized pint-sized mason jars with lids.
25 to 35 garlic scapes
Flavourings: (optional) sprigs or fresh dill and/or 2 dried chile (optional)
2 cups white or cider vinegar
3 Tb kosher or pickling salt
2 to 3 Tb sugar
1. Trim garlic scapes, wash them and cut them into cornichon-length peices (about 2 to 4 cm long). Last year, I rubbed them with salt and let them sit over night to draw out the juice (this helps keep pickles crisp). BUT there were hardly any juice to draw out, so I think it was a wasted step. Skip it this year.
2. Place the dill and /or chile in the bottoms of the jars. Place the garlic scapes in the jars, packing them in as well as you can.
3. In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, salt, and sugar with 1-1/2 cups of water until simmering and salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour warm vinegar mixture over the garlic scapes to cover them (you may not use all of the vinegar mixture). Seal the jar. Let sit until cool, then store in the refrigerator for at least 4 weeks before eating. The last jar of last year’s batch are still crunchy and delicious as we speak, so I would say they will last at least one year.
4. If you want to give them as gifts, you can process the jars in a boiling water bath immediately after pouring in the warm vinegar.
Garlic Scape Pesto Steak Rub
makes enough to cover about 3 steaks
Make this pesto at least 1.5 hours before you want to serve the steaks, or up to 24 hours before. Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 garlic scapes, chopped
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
3 steaks, 6 oz to 8 oz each – top sirloin, sirloin cap, or rib eye steaks being the best choices, in my humble cheffy opinion.
1. Combine everything in the work bowl of a food processor or in the mixing cup of a hand-blender. Process or blend until pureed (like a pesto).
2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel. Place on a a plate or in a large sealable container. Rub about 1 Tb or so of the scape pesto on each side of each steak. Let steak marinade for a minimum of 1 hour, preferrably longer – 4 to 8 hours is optimum. You want the steaks to rest long enough so that the salt draws the juices out and then the juices are drawn back in - this takes time. If you rush the process, your steaks will be dry.
3. Grill steaks over a medium-hot fire for several minutes per side, until done to your liking. Let rest a minimum of 5 minutes before serving.