Pasta with bitter greens and garlic scapes
Here at Maverick, we have a large stand of garlic plants, which look a week or two away from delivering a bumper crop. While we cross our fingers and await arrival of the revered allium, we've been enjoying an abundance of a little-known but wonderful garlic byproduct. About a month or six weeks before garlic bulbs develop cloves, the plant sends out a green shoot that curls downward at its tip, similar in shape to a duck's silhouette. These shoots, known as scapes, deliver intense garlic flavor and a vibrant green color. If left on the plant, they'll flower, leeching energy from the bulb. It's a good idea to harvest them before they flower--and eat them. Here's one of the ways we've been dealing with the scape deluge, in combination with another beloved vegetable that has thrived this year: kale.
Pasta with sauteed bitter greens and scapes
1 pound dry pasta (spaghetti, farfalle, linguini, whatever is on hand)
2 large handfuls greens (such as kale, chard, or mature arugula or spinach), bunched and sliced into ribbons
2-3 garlic scapes, trimmed of tough part, cut into half-inch pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, and chopped fine
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted for a few minutes at 300 F and chopped coarsely
Extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crushed chile flakes
Red-wine or balsamic vinegar
Parmeson-style cheese for grating
Put water on highest heat for pasta; prepare ingredients as stated above. Put a skillet (large enough to handle the greens) on low heat. Add a little more than enough olive oil to cover the bottom, and add garlic, scapes, a pinch or two of chile, a pinch or two of salt, and a vigorous grind of black pepper. Give it all a stir, and let it cook until garlic and scapes are sizzling and fragrant; be careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the greens and turn heat to medium, tossing the greens so that they're coated in the garlic-scented oil. (When the water boils, which might be about now, salt it well and add the pasta.) Now cover the greens and turn heat to low. Cook, checking and stirring often, until the greens are tender. Once they're tender, remove from heat and taste. If the flavor is bitter, give them a splash of vinegar. Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to its pot. Scrape the cooked greens into the pot, the walnuts, and a healthy splash of olive oil. Toss and taste; correct for salt and pepper. Serve. Pass the cheese and grater at table, and be sure to have a bottle of olive oil handy.