With their serpentine coils and tangled mass, garlic scapes suggest the stuff of myth, the substance of Medusa’s coiffure had she been vegan. Actually, they’re deliciously benign, sweet, and mild with just a hint of garlic. Scapes, the flower stems of maturing hard-neck garlic bulbs, are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads or puréed for dressings or pestos. In Italy, the season’s frittatas, risottos, and gnocchi would be bereft without them. Pickling jars would be forlorn.
So let’s follow that lead and head to the greenmarket, pronto. Look for crisp, bright specimens, and keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge’s crisper drawer for no more than a day or two. Then chop, blanch, and sauté your way to springtime bliss.
Eric Gabrynowicz is embarking right about now. “Garlic scapes signal the beginning of a great growing season,” says the chef at the farm-to-table Restaurant North (386 Main St, Armonk 914-273-8686; restaurant north.com), who was just named The People’s Best New Chef in the New York Area by Food & Wine. And his scape celebration extends from grill to saucepan to cocktail glass. “They lend nicely to a bit of char,” he says, so he grills them for a hint of smokiness and adds them to a risotto lush with pears and Parmesan. His halibut soars beneath a cloud of blender-whipped, scape-steeped cream, and his Bloody Marys rock with scape pickles. “Scapes have a punch to them, a rawness,” Gabrynowicz says. “They’re more versatile than scallions or spring onions.”
So dust off those grills, pull out those blenders, oil up those omelet pans: the sun is high and the scapes are up—nothing mythical about it.
Poached Cod in Garlic Scape Cream
Courtesy of Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, Restaurant North
For the fish
1 cup water
1 cup dry white wine
4 four-oz pieces of cod (or other firm white fish, like halibut)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parchment paper (or waxed paper), to cover
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the water and wine to a gentle simmer. Season fish with salt and pepper and gently place into pan. Cover with parchment paper and poach 6 minutes over low flame (fish is done when opaque through center). Remove onto plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
For the cream
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic scapes, sliced
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat oil. Cook scapes, onion, and garlic until softened and translucent, but not browned. Add wine and reduce until syrupy. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in large bowl. Stir cream into wine mixture in pan and remove pan from heat. Carefully pour mixture into a blender (a drink blender is preferable) and process on high speed until completely smooth and fluffy. Immediately pour into small bowl, and place into ice bath to chill down and refresh green color.
Gently spoon garlic scape cream (desired amount) to “melt” over fish.