Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Harvest Meal: Garlic Scape Risotto

I decided to harvest some of the garlic scapes on the early side this year.  Last year I let them go a while and the lower ends of them got a little tough.  I took all of the scapes from two of the four varieties of hardneck garlic we're growing.  One more hardneck variety has scapes ready to harvest, and the last one is just now forming its scapes.  We also have a softneck variety this year, Kettle River Giant.  Supposedly the softneck varieties store better, so we're hoping to chip away at the garlic gap (that period of the year when we don't have homegrown garlic) with the help of this variety.

Despite the heat, I'm drawn these days to hot dinners.  Last night it was a simple risotto made with three key  ingredients we produced ourselves: lardo, chicken stock, and garlic scapes.  We used purchased Arborio rice, onions (I can't quite bring myself to pull our little garden onions yet), parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to complete the dish.  I particularly like the fact that our cured and smoked fatback can substitute for either olive oil or butter as a cooking fat.  I love to watch the lardons turn from opaque to translucent, and then begin to release their fat and finally brown up.  They give a subtle smoky taste to dishes and have a nice meaty-chewy texture themselves once cooked.  Most people will tell you that since risotto hails from northern Italy, it should be cooked with butter.  But there are some staunch traditionalists who insist that pork fat - not even olive oil - is the true and universal fat of Italian cooking.  I couldn't speak to how things were really done in Italy throughout the ages.  But I can say that my lardo makes a mean risotto.

The chicken stock was truly a home product.  Not just made at home after the roast of a purchased local chicken, but the last of the White Marans hens we tried out briefly last summer and slaughtered in early fall.  I put most of the chopped up scapes in the risotto early.  Probably a bit too early, as they lost their lovely bright green tone.  But they retained a pleasing firmness which reminded us of little green beans or thin asparagus.  I held a small amount of chopped scapes in reserve to add at almost the last minute.  These kept their color better.  I'd probably choose to add the scapes just past the mid-way point in cooking this risotto if I did it over again.  Of course, as seasonal as this dish is, the chances of me remembering this observation are slight.  I just don't get to work with garlic scapes more than once or twice per year.

I won't even bother to give a sketch of my recipe here.  Risotto is ridiculously easy to prepare and there are a thousand recipes easily accessible online.  Just use a rice meant for risotto (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, etc.), use whatever vegetable and stock you have on hand, and keep stirring.


Teresa/Safira said...

Perfect timing. My garlic scapes are ready to use and I've been looking for ideas. They're lovely in "a little bit of everything from the garden, sauteed and thrown over pasta" but I'd like something to showcase them

Kim said...

Mmmm...sounds delicious. This is my first year growing garlic and I only planted the softneck variety. Will have to add the hardneck type next time. Thanks for the great ideas!

String Theory said...

sorry to be dense, what's a garlic scape? I am growing garlic for the first time this yr, I think it's nearly ready to harvest as the bottom 2 leaves are yellowing. All advice appreciated.

Kate said...

Teresa, glad to have given you a hint. I'll probably use the remaining scapes up just as you suggested - in a mixed stir-fry. It's all good.

Kim, I do love the appearance of the scapes on the hardnecks. It's a shame to cut them off, but they're sooo yummy!

Queen of string, no, I'm sorry not to have explained. Scapes are sort of seedheads that form on hardneck garlics, much the way that onions will form seedheads if left in the ground long enough. The guidelines I use for garlic harvesting are when half of all the leaves have turned yellow. Usually I see six or seven leaves on the mature plants. Sounds like your plants are getting pretty close.

String Theory said...

They sound really interesting, thanks for the reply. Mine aren't forming scapes, so I'm guessing they must be soft neck, which, from your postings, might hopefully mean they store well. Thanks for the prompt response.