Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Green Garlic Scapes: Culinary Calligraphy


Today while having lunch at Lucques in LA, EQ asked Chef Suzanne Goin:

Is there a seasonal ingredient from a certain purveyor that you are particularly excited about right now?

Her answer: Green garlic scapes.

If you are unfamiliar with this allium species offshoot, green garlic looks like a leek with a bulb shape at the root end. Just above the premature bulb, a single long curly shoot spikes out with the intention to flower: this is the scape.

The scapes' elegant looping green tendrils tell us they are young and tender -- as they mature, they straighten out and become tougher. Chef Goin compares the texture of the garlic scape to a Chinese long bean. Raw, the garlic flavor is quite pungent; when cooked, the taste is milder, but still distinct.

At yesterday’s farmers market in Santa Monica, CA, Chef Goin was surprised to spot the scapes at the Windrose Farms stand – a purveyor near Paso Robles, CA, that she orders from weekly. At first sight, she exclaimed, “You didn’t tell me that you had these!” In fact, this is the first year Chef Goin has found green garlic scapes in the Los Angeles area farmers markets.

Suzanne’s first brush with a scape was when she worked in Boston. An early seasonal item on the East Coast, she remembers one bleak spring farmers market scene with scant produce save for some freshly dug new potatoes (which were amazing) and these odd green scapes. She immediately experimented with them, and has been cooking with them since when available.

The window for green garlic scapes is only a few weeks, sometime between March and June, depending on what region you live in.

For preparation, Chef Goin recommends snapping the bottoms off where they naturally break -- like you do with asparagus -- and then cutting the shoot on the bias. Sautée the scape slices in butter with water, salt and pepper.

So, exactly what is Chef Goin planning to do with these newly found scapes this week at Lucques? They're appearing on the dinner menu in a dish of Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon on Black Rice with a Sautée of Green Garlic Scapes and Rhubarb. Sounds like a delectable outcome.

As for my plans, I've found the most appetizing and interesting stir-fry shrimp and green garlic recipe, "Goong Pong Gari," on Chez Pim.

Lunch at Lucques
Here are our delicious lunch menu selections:

+ Rutiz farm carrot soup with yogurt, mint and ginger sofrito
+ Clams steamed with white wine and vermouth with fennel, green garlic, spring onions and herbs. Served with toasted bread with a green garlic aioli

+ Rutiz farm carrot soup with yogurt, mint and ginger sofrito
+ Slow-cooked albacore salad with white beans, shaved fennel and meyer lemon

+ Grilled radicchio and endive salad with anchovy, garlic and fried farm egg
+ Grilled Alaskan halibut with farro, green garlic, black olives and kumquat salsa