garlic scape pesto + pesto pizza sandwich

You know how there are those movies that everyone loves that are actually based on an earlier movie, but no one knows about the first movie, and you have to try to defend the little-known original even though it may look a little funky (it was made in the 80s after all) and has actors in it no one has heard of but you SWEAR it’s just as good — better, even — than the new, Hollywood blockbuster copycat?

Yeah, that’s how I feel about garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the long, slender, curling flower stalks that shoot out of garlic bulbs as they grow. Because keeping the scapes nourished can drain the bulb of much-need energy, farmers usually cut the stalks when they reach a certain height. Thank goodness not all farmers toss these scapes in the compost pile, because they are not only edible, but delicious. Think of a slightly milder garlic taste, packaged in a totally zany, snake-like stalk. I, personally, am smitten.

The very good news is that garlic scapes deliver just as many health benefits as their more popular kin, the garlic bulb. A variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds locked inside garlic have been shown to keep blood pressure under control, protect against cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer, and even lower the risk of heart disease. Look for them at your farmer’s market, and try out the pesto recipe below. Not only will you create a super-tasty meal, you can be sure that any vampires in the vicinity of your kitchen (or your breath) will immediately flee the scene.

garlic scape & almond pesto
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
a handful of basil leaves (optional)
salt

Coarsely chop the garlic scapes. If you’d like to toast the almonds, do so now. (I didn’t because my stomach was grumbling, but I’m sure it would be delicious!)

Place the scapes, almonds, cheese, basil leaves (if you’re using them) and half the olive oil in a food processor. Squeeze in your lemon juice. Puree well. Add the remaining oil and give a couple more spins. Season with salt. And you’re done!

To put it mildly, this pesto is garlicky. If you’re a garlic-fiend (as I am) you’ll fall in love. If you’re only lukewarm about garlic, or if you’ve got people to kiss later on, you could back off a bit on the scapes and supplement with old-fashioned basil leaves. Either way, this is a pesto to put some pep in your dinner and some color on your plate. Bonus! Freeze the pesto in an airtight container for a couple months if you’d like to save it for a special occasion. But act fast, because garlic scapes are only available for so long. Keep scrollin’ for another recipe that uses the pesto!

I’m sure this pesto would steal the show simply tossed with pasta, perhaps peppered with some grape tomatoes, or maybe something less predictable like sauteed summer squash. I chose to fashion an open-faced pesto pizza sandwich, somewhat inspired by my absolute favorite Ann Arbor restaurant, Seva.

All you do is this: toast a couple of pieces of nice wheaty bread. Spread generously with your garlic scape and almond pesto. Layer with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and a finishing sprinkle of leftover Parmesan. Broil for a few minutes more to melt the cheese.

As always, let me know if you give it a try!

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