The beautiful produce I bought from the Portland Farmers' Market - Saturday Edition, at Deering Oaks Park, will keep me going until Wednesday, when the growers move their wares to Monument Square. It's early in Maine's growing season, so lettuces, chard, fresh herbs, snap peas, and baby carrots abound. Salads have been the order of the day.
While there, I also found bunches of gorgeous, Dr. Seuss inspired garlic scapes. Though they are popular in Europe, many Americans have never tried this early summer delicacy. The scape is the stem of the garlic plant, picked before it flowers. Young scapes which have not yet started to curl are delicate and tender. Curly scapes are older and still quite delicious, but their ends should be trimmed, much like the ends of mature asparagus. Garlic scapes are delicious sauteed in olive oil, either alone or with other summer vegetables. They have a more refined, less intense flavor than garlic, not at all overwhelming. I'm a huge fan of pestos, however, so I improvised a recipe with ingredients I had on hand.
In addition to the scapes, I brought home tiny cherry tomatoes and bright green fresh basil. The scapes and the basil became the base for the pesto, along with walnut pieces I had frozen last week. On the holiday weekend, however, I found myself without Parmesan cheese, a pesto staple. Instead I committed what may be considered a mortal sin among cheese afficianados. I grated several tablespoons of my treasured hunk of Cabot's award winning Clothbound Cheddar to use in lieu of grated Parmesan. Because the Clothbound can be difficult to find, you may want to substitute any of Cabot's other specialty Cheddars in its place. The Cheddar gave my pesto a rich, full-bodied flavor, more complex than Parmesan.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make Garlic Scape, Walnut & Cabot Clothbound Pesto:
6 - 8 stalks garlic scapes, washed
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
10 - 12 basil leaves, washed
3 tbls. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, grated
4 tbls. Extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 sm. carton fresh cherry tomatoes, washed
1 lb. whole wheat pasta
To start to process, I chopped about 6 - 8 stalks of the garlic scapes into one-inch dice.
I then heated about two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and sauteed the scapes and the walnuts over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
When the scapes softened and the walnuts browned, I put them in a food processor with the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of basil leaves - 10 - 12, depending on size, and about 3 or 4 tablespoons of grated Cheddar. I processed until blended, adding a bit more olive oil as needed. The pesto was quite thick.
I refrigerated the pesto overnight and planned the next night's meal of whole wheat penne pesto with roasted cherry tomatoes and a fresh green salad. Dinner was a hit, summery and fresh, and a light Pinot Gris was the perfect compliment. Add a dessert of fresh picked Maine strawberries and it was a perfect end-of-the holiday meal.