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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Frank About... Garlic Scapes!

It's garlic scapes season!!! 

They have finally arrived at the Webb City Farmers Market, and none too soon for my upcoming market demo on All Things Scapes, this Saturday. Yesterday, I appeared on the "Cooking With Carol" segment of Living Well on KSN 16. Here is the link: Cooking With Carol: Frank About Food & Garlic Scapes

A few years ago, I heard about something called garlic scapes. I had never actually seen them, or had the opportunity to try them. They were never offered at our local Webb City Farmers Market. I inquired from a vendor family about them. They told me they tried offering them at the market, but no one had any clue what they were or how to utilize them, so they went unsold. 

A couple of years ago, a friend of my wife had posted on Facebook about getting her hands on some scapes at the Freight House Farmers Market in Davenport, Iowa. I had my wife find out the name of the vendor, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on some scapes the next weekend while visiting her family in Davenport, from One Acre Produce. My mind ran wild with ideas on how to use these gems!

After first inquiring about them, they began gracing vendor tables in quite an abundance, last year. How about a little information on what garlic scapes actually are? 

Garlic scapes are the leafless stem that shoots up from the garlic bulb that produces the flower of the garlic plant. When first emerging, the scape curls, with a slight bulge toward the top of the stem. To achieve the best growth and formation of the garlic head, and cloves, these scapes need trimmed within a couple of weeks of appearance. Many farmers take advantage of these scapes and sell to the "in-the-know" culinarians, or foodies, at local farmer markets. Many others, including the southwest Missouri farmers, can't find a viable market for these, and will just utilize them in their kitchens, or enhance their compost piles. Scapes become available only one time a year: late spring and early summer. A very short-lived season, coupled with great versatility, make garlic scapes a highly sought after item in many markets. 

The scapes are only truly good when curled, with the very slight bulge (see above picture). Once they begin to straighten, or flower, they become too woody, and lose much of the desired flavors. Two years ago, when I started seeking them out, locally, I found the scapes pictured below, at the local farmers market. Very cheaply priced, I thought I would grab a small bundle to see if there was any good in them.... I can tell you... NO! 

The flavor within a garlic scape can be described as a cross between a scallion, or green onion, and garlic. I'm not gonna lie to you... it is sharply garlic. You know... the kind of garlic that bites your tongue. However, I am from the school of thought about garlic never being too much. One of my favorite quotes is by Emeril Lagasse: "Once I was asked, 'Emeril, how much garlic is too much?' I replied... 'Dunno... ain't been there, yet!'"  If you eat garlic scapes, definitely double, triple, up on breath mints, that day! 

Some preparations really calm down some of the bite of the scapes. As I said before, garlic scapes are very versatile. Here are just a few ideas of things you could do with garlic scapes: 

  • chop into short lengths and sauté them as a side dish
  • chop them and toss them raw into salads
  • chop into short lengths and toss into a stir fry
  • toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill them
  • substitute them for garlic in hummus recipes
  • use them as an aromatic herb in recipes
  • pickle them and store them for months to come
  • a delicious, yet unusual preparation as a garlic scape tart
  • a garlic scape pesto
When preparing garlic scapes for cooking, be sure to trim off the tops, just below the bulge. I used my two bundles to prepare a garlic scape pesto. As with any other pesto, there are a lot of ways to prepare it. For garlic scape pesto, you could use the scapes as a substitute for basil, or mix half and half with some herb, such as basil, dill, arugula, spinach, or chervil. For the nut component of the recipe, you could use pine nuts or walnuts. Below is the pesto recipe I have evolved, and adjusted accordingly to my desired outcome. 

Garlic Scape Pesto

1/2 C chopped scapes

1/2 C baby spinach
1/4 C walnuts
juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Place scapes, baby spinach, lemon juice & zest, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food   
     processor, pulsing until all chopped and incorporated well. 
3.  Begin drizzling in the olive oil as you continue to pulse, or run, the processor, until you 
     reach a desired consistency.
4.  Scrape the pesto into a bowl, and stir in the Parmesan cheese. 

Frank's Notes:

1. Pesto can be frozen. If you are going to freeze the pesto, do not add the Parmesan cheese   
    until you are ready to thaw and serve the pesto. 
2. Freezing will mellow the sharp garlic flavor of the scapes in the pesto. I served mine fresh, 
    but it did have a substantial bite, at first. The longer it sat in the refrigerator, the more 
    mellow it became. 
3. This pesto can be served on toasted breads, or tossed in with hot pasta. It can also be 
     tossed in with a cream sauce for pasta. A small round of toasted baguette, topped with   
     some pesto, and finally topped with a grilled shrimp makes for some amazingly simple, yet        elegant appetizers at a gathering. 

Garlic Scape Tart
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tblsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4-5 Tblsp ice water

1 C thinly sliced garlic scapes
2 large eggs, beaten
1 C ricotta cheese
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves (or 1 tsp thyme + 1/2 tsp lemon zest)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1.  Place the fours and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine. 

2.  Add the butter and pulse until butter is pea-sized. Sprinkle 4 Tblsp ice water onto the dough. 
     Pulse until the dough holds together. If it is too dry, add some additional ice water to pull it 

3.  Take dough out, and shape into a flattened disc on plastic wrap or parchment. Wrap and 
     refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

4.  Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Press into 
     sides and bottom of 10 inch fluted tart pan. Prick entire bottom with a fork, and line with a 
     sheet of parchment paper, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. 

5.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove pie weights and parchment, cooking for 7 minutes 

6.  Place the scapes, eggs, ricotta, lemon thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Beat until 
     well combined.  Pour filling into tart shell and return to oven for 30 minutes, until filling is set. 
     Cool to warm or room temperature before slicing and serving. 

Frank's Notes:
1.  If you use a larger tart pan, such as an 11 inch, you can just increase the eggs and ricotta by 
     half more. For example, use 3 eggs and 1.5 C ricotta.

Your turn: I want to hear some feedback from you guys. Have you heard of scapes before? Have you cooked with scapes before? Let me know... Let me know if you have a favorite preparation for garlic scapes! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The SGF Beer Buzz Four Course Memorial Day Challenge

I was recently approached by former beer radio host and current Beer Buzz blogger Benjamin Stange about doing a bit of a beer pairing challenge. Around Valentine's Day, earlier this year, Ben had guest Chef Marty Lowry of the Springfield Hy-Vee stores on the show to discuss an easy, but elegant multi-course dinner for your Valentine. Ben provided the beer pairings to accompany Marty's menu. With this show topic, Ben had suggested towards the end of the show that it would be an interesting experiment to have Marty and I work on separate menus to accompany a pre-determined selection of beers. Okay, to be quite "Frank About" it, Ben called me out on the radio! A gauntlet was thrown, and it was on! 

After both participants missing the deadline to get it on for American Craft Beer Week, we decided leading up to Memorial Day weekend would be a perfect opportunity to toss out a grill-centric menu! 

The rules were clear and simple: 
1.  Ben selected four local beers (in order of food course: Springfield Brewing Company's 11 Point Pilsner, Boulevard Brewing Company's Tank 7 Farmhouse Style Ale, White River Brewing's Belgian-style Table Rock Red, and Mother's Brewing's Three Blind Mice)
2.  We had to come up with a dish for each course that would pair well with the beer
3.  All dishes needed to focus on the grill 
4.  We needed to explain how we came up with the pairing, and how it worked with the beer
5.  Provide the recipes for the readers

As an added fun factor, Ben decided to make it a bit of a friendly competition; he asked readers to comment on each day's post with which pairing they thought would work better. That's been fun. Luckily, my friends and followers of the blog have been honest in their comments, and several friends have voted against me, thus far! That's how I wanted it to turn out. 

We are heading into the final course, today: dessert. The beer Ben selected is a tricky one for dessert. You will learn why, when you read the post, a bit later this morning. I may reprint the recipes here in the following weeks. I do encourage you to head over the the Beer Buzz blog and take a look. I will provide the links below to each day's course! 

Links to each day:

Course #1: appetizer

Course #2: salad

Course #3: main dish

Course #4: dessert

Final Wrap-Up and Menu Summary

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meatless Monday: Creamy Spinach Mushroom Skillet Enchiladas

I apologize for my lack of Meatless Monday posts, recently. I promise to get back on track. And in doing so, I give you a delicious and easy enchilada recipe that you will definitely add to your recipe collection!  

Creamy Spinach Mushroom Skillet Enchiladas

2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
8 oz  mushrooms, sliced
6 oz baby spinach
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tblsp cream cheese w/ onions & chives
16 oz bottle of green salsa
8 - 6 inch corn tortillas
1/3 C Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 C sour cream
cilantro sprigs (optional)

1.  Preheat broiler. 

2.  Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and 
     mushrooms; sauté for 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

3.  Add the spinach and salt, and cook for approximately 1 minute, or until wilted, stirring        
     frequently. Drain. 

4.  Return the mushroom mixture back to the skillet. Add cream cheese and cook for 2 
     minutes, or until cream cheese is melted, stirring frequently. Place mixture into bowl and set 

5.  Heat 1 C of salsa in a saucepan over low heat.  Dredge both sides of each tortilla in warm          salsa, using tongs, and stack tortillas on a plate.  

6.  Spoon 1 heaping Tblsp of mushroom mixture over the center of each tortilla. Fold in half, 
     and arrange in skillet, overlapping slightly. 

7.  Top with remaining salsa and sprinkle with cheese. Wrap the handle of the skillet in 
     aluminum foil, and broil enchiladas for 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

8.  Top with sour cream and garnish with cilantro sprigs.