It’s exciting to see those familiar favorite vegetables like leafy green lettuce and bright red radishes, but what about those stranger ones, like kohlrabi and garlic scapes? They can seem pretty intimidating at first. They may even make you wonder, is this really edible? The good news is that these veggies are not only edible, they're just as delicious and no more challenging than their common counterparts. The trick is opening your mind (and your mouth), and arming yourself with a little information. They’re just vegetables, right?
The first time I saw garlic scapes, they left me with a culinary question mark that matched their curlicue forms. But I soon discovered that they are as tasty as they are beautiful. Their season is short, so I like to make them last a little longer by making pickles or pesto (which I freeze for later in a ice cube tray).
In this pesto, garlic scapes take the place of garlic cloves. Cilantro subs in for basil (because that’s what came with the CSA and it just happened to turn out better than basil). Sunflower seeds swap places with pine nuts (because they’re cheaper and they contribute an earthy, mellow flavor). Instead of parmesan, there’s an aged cow’s milk cheese from my friends at Jasper Hill Farm up in Vermont -- where the American artisan cheese industry is flourishing -- that has a wonderfully buttery, nutty flavor.
This pesto so good, I dare you to try to freeze it before you gobble it all up. It’s vibrant, fresh, and green -- a little garden in a jar. I like to eat it spread on little toasts with shaved radishes and a glass of rosé as a summertime snack. But it’s also perfect for pasta, as a marinade for meat, a dip for veggies, thinned out as a salad dressing, or any other way you would use regular pesto.
Try experimenting in your kitchen to come up with a new kind of pesto. The basic formula for pesto (now simmer down all you pesto purists out there) is:
GARLIC + HERBS + NUTS + CHEESE = PESTO
What's your favorite equation for pesto?
Garlic scape pesto crostini
Yield: about 2 cups pesto
½ baguette, sliced diagonally, toasted
1 heaping cup garlic scapes (about a dozen scapes), sliced into coins
½ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup cheese,* finely grated
Juice from ½ lemon
2-4 radishes, shaved thin
*Don’t be afraid to break the parmesan mold! Consider experimenting with what you have in the fridge or what looks good at the cheese counter.
- Blanch scapes briefly (~1 min) in boiling salted water; shock in a bowl of ice water; drain; dry. Repeat with cilantro (but it only needs about 15 seconds in the water).
- Prulse blanched scapes and cilantro in a food processor until minced into small pieces (~1 minute), scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as you go.
- Add sunflower seeds and process until ingredients form a paste (~30 seconds), scraping down the sides as you go.
- With the food processor running, stream in olive oil; process just until smooth. (Don’t over process or olive oil will impart a bitter flavor.)
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Just before serving, add lemon juice to taste; spread onto toasts; top with radishes; drizzle with olive; sprinkle with a salt.
Quick tip: Have you ever made pesto and had it turn brown before you could even sit down? Blanching the greens helps them keep their vibrant color. Waiting until the last moment to add lemon juice helps, too.
Other dishes from this CSA share
- Pasta tossed with extra garlic scape pesto and kale
- Salads with red leaf lettuce and kohlrabi pickles from last week
- Cucumbers sliced for salads and sandwiches
- Kohlrabi crudité with hummus
- As for the strawberries, I think you can guess what happened: we ate them right out of the box, still warm from the sun.
- We didn't eat our scallions, but they'll still be good next week