Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Let Mario Batali pronounce it for you.
Quick! Eat them before they escape!
Garlic scapes - the twirly, curly, electric green shoots that emerge from the earth as garlic grows below - are in season for cruelly few weeks each year and tend to be snatched up quickly by their rabid fans. That's why it's always a delightful surprise to see them still gracing farmers market stalls and menus across the country, several weeks past their usual window of opportunity, which slides shut in mid-July.
Hardneck garlic sends up a stalk that may loop around a time or two. If the grower wishes to propagate more garlic from the bulbil - which is that little bulb at the tip of the shoot - it can be left to grow and dry. If the aim is to make a big, tasty garlic bulb, the scape can be snipped off and used to propagate deliciousness.
Garlic scapes pack a flavor that's somewhere between garlic and scallions. They're fresh, peppery, pungent and take well to all manner of preparation methods, from sauteeing and pan-frying to pickling and pestos. Treat them as you would chives, and chop them into rounds or dice to sprinkle raw or sauteed over eggs, pasta or salads. Stir fry or deep fry scapes or lightly grill or roast them whole to serve as a dramatic side dish or pizza topping.
Actually, leave garlic scapes whole as frequently as you possibly can. Cutting them up doesn't diminish their flavor, but it also squanders an ever so brief annual opportunity to bring a little visual pizzaz to the table and bring the word "bulbil" into dinnertime conversation.
And wouldn't it be a crime to let that chance escape for a whole 'nother year?
Garlic Scape Pesto
Ingredients (quantities to taste)
Handful of garlic scapes
Pre-chop scapes into 1/2 inch pieces on a cutting board, and place in mortar or rough-textured bowl with a pinch of kosher salt. With a pestle or wooden spoon, grind the scapes against the surface of the bowl, using the salt's grit to help break down the fibers until they form a somewhat uniform paste.
Sprinkle in pine nuts and crush them into the paste with the mortar. Once they're integrated, drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly until the desired consistency is achieved. Sprinkle in grated Parmesan cheese to taste.
And yes, you can just chuck it all into a food processor, but where's the fun in that?
Got a favorite way to eat garlic scapes? Won't you please be so kind as to share in the comments below?
Thanks to local foodist Nina Planck for bringing the term "scorpacciata" into my lexicon. I've never met her, but I shall always be grateful.