Garlic scapes are the stems that grow up from garlic bulbs. Think somewhat tough scallions that taste like a mild version of bright fresh garlic. Garlic scapes can be eaten raw or cooked, whole or chopped. They can be pickled, roasted, grilled, sautéed, or used in pestos. The stems can be tough, however, so it helps to mince them as you would garlic cloves and/or to cook them to tenderize them. It can also help to blanch them before grilling or cooking whole or in large pieces. To use garlic scapes, cut off the very stringy tip at the end. Then prepare as you wish.
Last week I sautéed my scapes finely minced along with my kale. This gave my kale a delightfully light garlic taste yet I didn’t notice the bits of scape within it. For more ideas, this article from the Huffington Post offers some interesting ways to try garlic scapes (click here).
Below is a recipe for garlic scape dill pesto that I served on baked salmon. It would also be great thinned with a bit of pasta cooking liquid and tossed with pasta and sautéed snap or snow peas. Note that it is a garlicky pesto. For less garlic flavor, reduce the amount of garlic scape and increase the amount of dill.
Garlic Scape and Dill Pesto
– 1/4 cup chopped dill , packed
– 4 garlic scapes, finely chopped
– 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
– 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, optional (good if serving with fish)
Place everything but olive oil and lemon juice in a the bowl of a mini food processor. Process until finely minced and beginning to make a paste. Gradually add olive oil and continue to process on high speed until you have pesto consistency. Add more oil if needed. Stir in lemon juice if using. Taste for salt level and add additional salt if necessary. When storing, press plastic wrap on surface on pesto to help to keep it’s color. Will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.
Important Tips on Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe, or rapini as it is often called, is a nutritional superfood, as marked by its characteristic bitterness. It’s stems can also be quite tough, particularly the variety we receive at the farm. In order to thoroughly enjoy this vegetable, I recommend that you cut 2 inches from the stem end and then use a vegetable peeler to trim the tough outer edge of the remaining stems. I also recommend that you blanch it for 4-5 minutes in boiling salt water before proceeding with any other cooking preparation. Once blanched, place quickly in an ice water bath to stop cooking and to help retain its bright green color. Blanching the broccoli removes some of the bitterness and helps to tenderize the stems.
Once broccoli rabe is drained and squeezed dry, you can continue on with any number of cooking methods, including sautéing, steaming, pureeing (great for pesto), or grilling. Broccoli rabe can be blanched ahead of time to make quick work of your final cooking project. Blanched rabe should last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. I like it sautéed with raisins and pine nuts, made into a pesto for pasta, or mixed in to double stuffed sweet potatoes or in grain salads.
I get the feeling folks are either intimidated by anything in the choy/choi family or perhaps don’t like it. It seems to be skipped over more and more at the farm. I understand. Other than in stir fry, I used to never have much use for this Asian vegetable. Yet choy has a surprisingly rich nutrient profile for a vegetable that contains so much water. It is a cruciferous vegetable that container a number of vitamins and phytonutrients. It may even be as or more healthful than broccoli, which is thought by many to be one of the healthiest foods on earth. Before giving up on it, check out a few more recipes that use choy in more creative ways.
The following recipe is for those who aren’t sure they even like bok choy (like my son). Chopping the choy into fine pieces and combining it with ground turkey and bold international flavors renders it delicious but almost undetectable. The “larb” (traditionally a Thai ground meat dish) is terrific served in cabbage leaves, but if you don’t have cabbage yet, try making tacos out of them with soft corn tortillas. The larb would also be wonderful rolled in blanched Napa cabbage leaves, like a burrito.
If you don’t have fish sauce, I highly recommend getting some and keeping it in your fridge. It lasts forever. It is a staple of Thai cuisine and adds a delicious umami flavor to dishes. Despite it’s name, it actually isn’t very fishy tasting. In fact, it is addictive.
I like Red Boat brand fish sauce because it has no preservatives. You can find it at Whole Foods, Fresh Market, health food stores, and many local supermarkets. You can also order it online (click here) If you don’t wish to use fish sauce, you can sub in soy sauce or Tamari. Just make sure to use it to taste rather than follow the recipe amounts for fish sauce.
Finally, if you don’t have rice flour you can leave it out. It is mainly used for thickening. Simply cook off the meat and choy mixture for longer than the recipe suggests to more completely evaporate the water and thicken the mixture.
The following is one of my most popular recipes. Unless you have a peanut allergy, you are going to love it. The red pepper gives it more veggie value, color and flavor, but you could make it with all choy if you want. However, I recommend splurging on a few organic supermarket red peppers just to try it in combination with the choy. You could also use frozen organic peppers, which are less expensive. To make this dish more hearty, you can add chicken (see recipe for details).
Bok Choy and Red Pepper in Peanut Sauce
– 4 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic paste
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 teaspoon sugar
– 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
– 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
– 2 small bunch bok choy
– 2 small red bell pepper
1. In a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil on medium heat until hot. Add garlic, chili paste and tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until tomato paste turns a deep, dark red color. Add chicken broth, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Whisk until peanut butter melts and is incorporated into the sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Trim stem end of pac choi to release leaves. Rinse each leaf well to remove dirt. Cut off leaf ends and coarsely chop. Slice stalks into 1/3″ slices, keeping stalks separate from leaves. Seed red pepper and slice into thin slices.
3. Heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok on medium-high heat until hot. Add red pepper and stir fry two minutes or until beginning to soften. Add pac choi stalk slices and stir fry another 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add chopped pac choi leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 1 minute. Add reserved sauce and bring to a boil. Cook 1-2 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Add salt if needed (typically only if using no sodium broth).
4. There is plenty of sauce in this recipe to allow you to serve it over rice/noodles and/or to add more vegetables or meat (chicken works great) . If you wish to add meat, cook it first, remove it from the pan into a bowl, and then proceed with the recipe (stir-frying the vegetables–you will need to add more oil). Add the meat back in when you add the peanut sauce to veggies.
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