Sunday, June 03, 2007

get 'em now: three ultra-seasonal vegetables

It's raining today, but we doggedly walked to the farmers' market anyway, and I'm glad we did: I finally got to try garlic scapes! June is the season for these tender young garlic shoots, which are full of flavor but lack the harsh bite of raw garlic. I thought of Melissa's garlic scape frittata recipe but, as Mark's not a huge fan of egg dishes, I opted for garlic scape pesto instead. Delicious! Mild enough to eat as a dip on bread or crackers because of the lack of that raw bite, but packs enough flavor to stand up to whatever pizza or pasta creation you dream up. A little of this made into a vinaigrette would be nice drizzled over fish, I bet. Next week I'm going to buy more scapes so I can make more of this and freeze it.



Garlic Scape Pesto

12 or so garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend the scapes, oil and parmesan in a couple batches in a food processor/blender, then stir in lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste. If you're in the market for any new kitchen toys, I should mention that I love my immersion blender -- the main attachment is great for blending soups and sauces right in the saucepan, but it also comes with several other attachments, including a mini food processor that's perfect for this sort of thing.

Our CSA deliveries start this week, and I think we get more garlic scapes there too. I think I'll try this recipe next (scroll down to the Garlic Scape Pesto/Hummus Dip recipe in the comments). I would've tried that today if I'd had any tahini on hand, but I wasn't about to venture back out into the rain for it...

But anyway, that's not the only ultra-seasonal vegetable we've tried for the first time in the last couple of weeks. I was shocked to find fiddlehead ferns at my local Trader Joe's, so of course I had to try them. These are another short-season spring treat, and they grow best in the Northeastern U.S. They're the young, tightly coiled ends of the ostrich fern, and they're almost too pretty to eat. I sauteed them with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and swirled in a little butter at the end. I'm glad I didn't try to do anything more elaborate with them, because they have an intriguing flavor on their own: a lot like asparagus, but with a sort of nutty flavor too that we found irresistible.

And finally, one whose season is probably just about done for the year: ramps. These wild leeks are sort of an Appalachian specialty (Any of you who don't live in the Mid-Atlantic region: have you ever seen these in your farmers' markets? I'd never heard of them until I moved out here). They grow wild in the Blue Ridge mountains just west of here, and their season is just a few short weeks in the spring. Lately they've been showing up on several local chefs' menus. These too I gave the simple treatment: sauteed and tossed with pasta. They were good, but frankly, they were no garlic scapes. I hear pickled ramps are good, but I think I missed the season to try them. Alas, there's always next year.

9 Comments:

Blogger lis said...

I found ramps this year at a local specialty foods market. At a whopping $14 a pound, I only bought a handful. They were pretty good, but I agree they are no garlic scapes. Even though our farmer's market hasn't started (damn these high altitudes) I was able to put together a very seasonal meal with the ramps, fava beans, and rhubard (which I used in an upside down cake).

Fiddlehead ferns are often sold at the same store, but I have to admit I'm a little afraid of them. Something about those coils just weirds me out. Maybe I should try them.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

FF and ramps are veggies I've heard a lot about (particularly of late) but have never actually seen in person. Unless you count the leeks that I grow myself--if I pick them at the right time could they be actually ramps?

I haven't been to the Boulder Farmer's Market yet this season to see what they're offering these days.

By the way, I did try to make a garlic scape pesto last summer, and it was dreadful--way too sharp to eat raw. Your proportions sound more reasonable.

Lis, what did you do with your fava beans? I bought some once from the CSU horticulture students' stand, and that's the only time I've seem them fresh. I just boiled them and ate them out of the pods.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Never mind--ramps are wild leeks, not baby leeks. Got confused about my exotic veggies!

4:01 PM  
Blogger tara said...

I know what you mean about the fiddlehead fern's coils, Melissa. There kind of is something alien about them, isn't there? But they're definitely tasty. That nutty aspect of their flavor is so good with butter.

I read somewhere they're supposed to be great with morels. But being disinclined to forage for either the mushrooms or for the piles of cash necessary to buy them, I think they're just fine on their own.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Wow, 3 veggies I've never tried, one of which - garlic scapes - I've never even heard of. Impressive. And saying 'ramps' just makes me feel like Mario Batali.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa B. said...

Lucky! Tom Colicchio talks about ramps in Think Like a Chef, which is how I heard of them. And fiddlehead ferns, oh my gosh. Well, next week is the farmer's market, so I'm hoping for scapes right off the bat, or shortly thereafter.

11:05 PM  
Blogger lis said...

Sarah, I sauteed my fava beans with fennel--here's the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/106490

I used different proportions and didn't include savory, but the idea's a good one. Very tasty.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Good news - the scapes season is not yet over. I got an email from our CSA farmer yesterday saying that we'll be getting some more today. Also broccoli, boc choi, mustard greens, radishes, herbs and assorted other vegetables.

7:45 AM  
Blogger tara said...

Speaking of favas ... another tasty seasonal dish I made up the other night: whole wheat pappardelle with fava beans, wild mushrooms and garlic scapes. Topped it with a little shaved parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil=MMMM. This was my first experience cooking with favas -- shelling, blanching and skinning them was just tedious rather than difficult, so I didn't mind so much.

7:39 AM  

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