Our Turkish Giant garlic, planted last fall, just finished shooting up its twisty green flower stalks, also known as scapes. Only hardneck garlic varieties do this, and you have to cut them so that the plant can put more energy into growing bigger cloves. They can be found at many growers' markets for just a precious few weeks in mid-June, a riot of crazy corkscrew curls that to me embodies the exuberance of spring. The really interesting thing about them is that they taste intensely garlicky when raw, without quite the bite of mature garlic cloves, but when cooked they simply become vegetable-like, with a delicate hint of garlic flavor.
I made a wonderful, creamy pesto that freezes well, so that we can enjoy a taste of this short-lived spring treat later in the year. I used pistachios for an interesting twist, but pinon nuts would be just as good, and both are local crops in NM. If you find the pesto too intense to eat raw, just toss it with hot pasta - it mellows quickly with even the slightest heat. I love it in cold pasta salads, especially since scape season always coincides with our June heat wave! I'm also thinking of trying it with steamed diced beets, in potato salad, in deviled eggs, or stirred into white bean puree.
Last week, we made a great pasta salad with some beautiful orange bell peppers that Skarsgard Farms is getting from their partners in Mexico now. Using just what's in season around here at the same time, you can't go wrong with peas or fava beans, arugula, or maybe even some thinly sliced fennel. See this week's pasta salad with peas and arugula at www.ediblesantafe.com - we can't get enough!
Garlic Scape Pesto
10 large garlic scapes (about 1/4 pound)
1/3 cup roasted pistachios
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (leave out if freezing; just add it later when serving)
Chop or snap the scapes into about 1-inch pieces; blend all ingredients in a food processor. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Orecchiette with Garlic Scape Pesto and Peppers
1 pound orecchiette or other small, shapely pasta
1/4 C. Garlic Scape Pesto
2 sweet bell peppers
1/4 C. roasted pistachios
Cook pasta according to package directions. Slice the bell peppers lengthwise into about 6 pieces, then slice crosswise about 1/4 inch thick. For a cold pasta salad, rinse the pasta with cold water until completely cool. (Or you could make it a hot pasta dish) Toss with remaining ingredients and serve!