home cooking

A New Kind of Pesto


My brother, Sean is a man with a plan (that’s his hand in the photo!)  He  lives way up in upstate New York, in what he calls “The North Country”.  Late last fall, he let me know that he was planting a crap load of garlic cloves (3,000?) to grow organic garlic.  His mother-in-law owns land up there and it’s just sitting unused!  Fast forward to this beautiful spring and he has a huge load of garlic scapes.  They’re the curly green stems that show up when you’re growing hard necked garlic.  I wonder did he know that they go for about $5 for a handful at the local Farmers Market. 

What do you do with garlic scapes, I hear you ask?  Well, the list is endless, you can grill them, use them in place of garlic in many recipes, stir fry them, wilt them with greens, and on and on.  But I have opted for doing a twist on a traditional summer favorite, pesto.  The method and most of the ingredients are the same, except you use scapes in the place of basil leaves!

Hopefully, you’ve had pesto.  It’s become pretty prevalent, and is a great way to use up the huge amounts of herbs you end up with in the summer.  But, you can make all kinds of alternate versions.  I have even seen kale pesto, but I’ll reserve my purist judgement on that one!  So, when I came across scapes at Eastern Market, and saw they were going for $5 a bunch (like 4 or 5 scapes) my eyes opened up wide and I started planning their use!  Pesto seems like the logical way to go here.  Not only do they replace the garlic in pesto, they also replace the basil or herb.  Try this, I truly think you will love it as much as I do!

Garlic Scape Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts, the Hubby doesn’t like pine nuts)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • A few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (if you’re freezing, save it until you thaw to use)

In a dry pan, on medium, toast the nuts.  They will be ready when they’re fragrant and brown.  Allow them to fully cool, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

In a food processor or blender, add the cooled nuts, scapes, lemon and zest, salt and pepper.  Pulse 20 times or so, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary.  When everything is nicely chopped, open the neck of the processor and turn it on to full.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, stopping occasionally to allow it to process.   When you have added all the oil, allow the processor to go for a few more minutes, to completely emulsify the oil.  Mix in the Parmesan, to taste if you’re using it right away, or within a few days.  If you’re freezing it, skip adding the cheese until you use the pesto.

Store the pesto in a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.  An alternative is to put the mixture into an ice cube tray, freeze it, then keep the cubes in a bag in your freezer, or just put all of it in a bag in the freezer and thaw as you need it.

Look at how beautiful it is!





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