I’ve realized that I don’t try new foods often enough. It’s not because I’m afraid to try new things; I just hate the idea of wasting money on something I don’t like. A bag of arugula came in one of my produce boxes last summer and I’ve been slightly obsessed with it ever since: salads, pizzas, sandwiches, etc.
Grilled cheddar with arugula stuffed in the middle is probably my favorite to date but this cream cheese and arugula is a close second. Meanwhile, I have a packet of slow-bolt arugula seeds just waiting to be planted.
If you are a fancy pants person who reads a lot of food magazines / is first in line when the farmers’ market opens / prides yourself on your food knowledge, then you already know these are garlic scapes.
If you are, well, me, then you need to need to look up what the hell you just brought home.
In brief, scapes are the long, flowerless stalks that emerge from bulbs of hardneck garlic. If they’re left on, they will eventually form another bulb of garlic — but only by diverting the plant’s resources from what would otherwise be a nice fat head of garlic underground. It’s like pinching back the tops of a plant to make the rest grow better.
Which is fascinating, I know, but how does it taste? Well, if there’s an allium Kinsey Scale where mild, sweet onions are a 0 and raw garlic is a 6… scapes are probably about a 4. Predominately garlicky but still enough sweetness to eat raw without cringing. [And I feel like there was more to make of the idea of the onion-garlic Kinsey scale but I just can’t seem to find it. WELL ANYWAY.]
Basically, any recipe that calls for garlic could easily use garlic scapes instead — stir-fry, pizza, pasta, whatever — but I used mine to make pesto. You can either use all scapes or use half scapes and half basil, which is what I did. Otherwise, the recipe is the same: scapes/basil (no garlic, obviously), olive oil, salt, et cetera.
And then you can be a fancy pants, too.
ADDENDUM: I’ve got a piece about me and my kid up on Mamalode.com today… maybe you might like to read it?
Saturday was Slow Food USA’s $5 Challenge — to serve a meal for less than the cost (per person) of a fast food value meal.
I spent nearly all of last week catching up with a class I just transferred into, so after cramming about three weeks of work into one week… I had kind of forgotten I had signed myself up for this challenge until I got a reminder email that morning.
In keeping with the challenge idea of $5 being equivalent to fast food, I didn’t want to make anything fancy or complicated. Just something you could come from work and throw together rather than ring up the pizza place or hit the drive-through. It’s not the prettiest meal, but filling and tasty (and even dessert, too).
And so, for a grand total of $3.77 per person, I made kale stamppot with some local kielbasa, and an apple cake:
When you are at your local farmers’ market, and you see regular peaches are two dollars a pound, and donut peaches are twice that, you may think (as I did), eh, whatever, peaches are peaches and one peach is as good as another.
I am here to tell you: that thinking is wrong.
WRONG WRONG WRONG.
Donut peaches (also called saturn peaches, saucer peaches, or pan tao peaches) are, quite simply, the best peaches I have ever eaten. They’re almost as juicy as a bigger yellow peach — which is sometimes a good thing, unless you don’t mind sticky hands/arms/face at work — but being smaller, it’s easier to handle. What they lack in size, they make up for by being incredibly sweet; not gross, cloying sweet, but omg-this-is-the-peachiest-mothereffing-peach-I-have-ever-eaten sweet.
Now, I usually end a Greenmarket Grub entry with a recipe of some kind that uses the fruit or vegetable in question, but in this case, I just can’t. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything with these peaches besides set them in a pretty bowl on the counter and eat them out of hand, one after the other.
I hate to hear people trash-talk potatoes. I once had a friend sniff, “I don’t consider potatoes to even be a vegetable” and I rolled my eyes and flipped her off (which, okay, I could do because I was actually online chatting with her at the time). Potatoes, in my mind, are pretty much an absolute good and I feel rather protective towards them.
Remember a couple of years ago when food prices shot up and then suddenly staple grains were all crazy expensive, and there were protests and riots in parts of Africa and Asia over food prices? Well, that’s what globally-traded food commodities can get you.
Rice, wheat, and maize are the top three sources of carbohydrates in the world and they’re all subject to price fluctuations, but potatoes don’t keep well enough to ship very far, so they’re not globally traded—which is great news if you live in a developing country and you’re now royally screwed because rice/wheat/maize is now too expensive for you. Potatoes can be grown by almost anyone, anywhere, in any country. So long as you have dirt and people to water said dirt, you’ll get potatoes and you’ll get fed.
But here in the rest of the world (I hear you say), we don’t have that problem.
In 2004, my husband and I were in Amsterdam, rushing down the street (as fast as I could push an umbrella stroller on cobblestone sidewalks without rattling my kid’s brains right out, anyway) to meet up with his family for dinner. On our way there, we approached a greengrocer’s stand selling some tiny, unfamiliar fruit, still clinging to thin branches. Smaller than blueberries and an amazing crimson color, I quickly realized they were red currants.
I had never actually seen them before, other than in jam form. I gawked—for as long as I was able—at their amazing translucent skin that seems to catch the light in way my photo does not do justice to at all. I meant to go back and buy some, but I never quite got around to it and went home without having tried them.
This love-at-first-sight-in-a-faraway-land story must be the reason I keep buying them… because it’s certainly not for the taste. You think of summer fruits and berries and oh, they’re all so juicy and sweet, right? Red currants, as I seem to willfully forget each summer, are shockingly tart. Sweeter than cranberries (although not by much) and without the bitterness of pomegranate seeds, but still quite tart. They’re not really a fruit I can just pop into my mouth and snack on without wincing a little.
Currants are closely related to gooseberries (also quite tart) and, unsurprisingly, are a good, mouth-puckering source of Vitamin C. If you’re planning on getting your RDA from currants, though, better bring a checkbook—a tiny pint can often set you back $4 to $6 around here. Just for the sake of not wasting money, I tried to will myself to love these currants (yum, they’re so… lemony? oh god, who am I kidding?), but they slowly shriveled in my fridge until I conceded defeat and composted them.
Next summer, when I will have almost certainly forgotten everything I’ve just said and fall in love with some beautiful currants again, I’ll be ready. I’m not a fan of cooked summer fruits; I’d much rather enjoy them as they are (and who wants to turn on the oven in an already 80-degree house?) but red currants supposedly mellow considerably when cooked. I think I’ll try my hand at redcurrant buns or maybe a bread pudding with currants. Next year, I won’t be quite so dazzled by their good looks again.