Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Market Inspired: Garlic Scape Pesto

Strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, tomatoes, apples; We are all familiar with the basic go-to finds that most people gravitate toward at an Ontario market, but it's the lesser known produce, the black sheep of the market if you will, that has really been getting my attention as of late. Now that the market has been open for almost one month, I've had the opportunity to purchase goods from almost every single vendor featured at the sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market, many of which have been those very basics that I just listed. Of course all of them were incredibly delicious, and completely incomparable to the flavourless variety that gets shipped in from miles and miles away to our supermarkets. Though despite how delicious my fresh market finds were, it wasn't anything I hadn't had before.  

It was last week at Pete's Fresh Organics stand, as I was just about to hand over a $5 bill for a bag of beautiful farm-grown lettuce, that I saw them. I had been seeing the words "garlic scapes" slowly trickling into my Twitter and Facebook feeds, as all of my foodie friends and acquaintances proclaimed their desire at obtaining these mysterious, curly, chive-like greens while they still remained during their very short season. The more those two words kept appearing seemingly everywhere I looked, the more it felt like everyone was apart of a club that I wasn't included in. With my last five-dollars in my hand, I put down the bag of lettuce and began inspecting this mysterious find. They looked like chives to me, but curly and much harder in texture. I knew they were coveted, but what in the world do you even do with garlic scapes?
When surrounded by farmers and foodies alike, it came as no surprise that the moment the question "what do I do with garlic scapes?" left my lips, a response was enthusiastically tossed back at me from the lovely girl manning the Monforte Dairy stand. With a smile so wide, and a wild eagerness in her voice, I knew I could trust her when she suggested I make garlic scape pesto. 

The following day I could think of nothing other than lugging out my food processor to whirr up a big batch of garlic scape pesto. I hadn't a clue if I would even like the flavour of it, but was so excited at the prospect of discovering a new taste, that I simply could not get those whimsical looking greens out of my mind. With pizza on the menu for Friday nights dinner, I knew that would be the perfect opportunity for me to get to utilize my big bag of garlic scapes (that, by the way, only cost me $2). 

After a quick Google search on how to go about making the pesto, I learned that the whole garlic scape may be consumed, but the pointed tip after the pale yellow bulb is quite fibrous, and is recommended to be removed. I speedily chopped up my scapes, tossed them into the bowl of the food processor with some grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and lightly toasted pine nuts, and whirred away! That smell. I can't believe we live in the year 2014, and we still don't have smellovision. I wish I could convey to you the intensity of that spicy, fresh, zingy smell that wafted out from my food processor bowl. Heavenly. Although I was so taken by the smell of my newly-made pesto, and a quick taste told me it was delicious, I was still a little skeptical that it would actually be good spread on pizza. 
We divided up the pizza dough in half, and one of the halves into quarters so that we could make three different pizzas, one with classic tomato sauce, and two different varieties featuring the garlic scape pesto as the base. That first bite sent waves of both bliss and regret. Bliss at the taste of this intense new flavour that had previously been missing from my life, and regret at not having spread the pesto on all of the pizza dough. It was so incredibly delicious. The only upside to not using all of the pesto that evening? Leftovers to toss into pasta! 

The next time you visit your local farmers market, ask around. What's new? What's interesting? What's different? Don't be afraid of new finds. The answers to all of your mystery ingredient questions are literally at your fingertips, and you may be surprised at what new favourite dishes you may come up with thanks to taking a chance on something out-of-the-ordinary! Garlic scape season is incredibly short, so keep your eyes peeled and get them while you can! 

* The pointed tip after the pale yellow bulb of the garlic scape is very fibrous, and should be removed. Also remove any flowers that may remain.

Tip: When adding to pasta, add extra olive oil and some of the starchy pasta water.

about 20-30 garlic scapes, trimmed*
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
about 1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to season

  1. In the bowl of a food processor toss in the garlic scapes, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and the olive oil and blend until finely chopped, but still slightly chunky. Taste and season with salt and pepper and additional olive oil, if needed. Keep in fridge until ready to use for up to 1-week or freeze. 
What did I put on my garlic scape pizza?
Pizza #1: Spread the garlic scapes evenly over the rolled out dough (I like a really thin crust for this pizza). Sprinkle over grated Mozzarella cheese, thinly-sliced zucchini, and Serrano ham.

Pizza #2: Spread the garlic scapes evenly over thinly-rolled out dough. Sprinkle over grated Mozzarella cheese, thinly-sliced zucchini, and sliced tomatoes.

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