Garlic Scapes and Orzo

Last Saturday we went to the farmers’ market. I was thinking about buying some shiso, but the fellow had plants that were smaller than mine. The cool wet spring was not ideal for shiso seed germination and he’d had to plant a second time. My plants are volunteers, mostly green, and a few red.
Mr. Tess was looking for the guy selling shiitake, but either we were too late or the season is over. But there was a man with a small chest freezer selling bison and beef. J had purchased some ground bison from him last year and it was very good. I was hoping for liver or tongue: sold out of the former, and doesn’t usually bring the latter because not many want it. He’ll bring it if we call ahead. I want to try Ms. Shimbo’s mother’s recipe. We bought a pound of ground bison.
I spotted some baskets with curly bright green spikes—very pretty. The girl said they were “garlic spikes.” How could we resist! When we got home, the internet told me they are garlic scapes. When you plant garlic bulbs, they put out bright green leaves like scallions and chives. They also sprout a flower stem that curls into gorgeous tendrils. In pre-computer times, my father planted some garlic, but when he went to harvest it, the head was very small and all he got was this “top garlic.” Looked like miniature garlic! I planted some in my own (flower) garden and they grew the the curly tendrils which straightened as they matured and bloomed. They self sowed for a few years and then disappeared. Apparently, if you want garlic, you must remove the flower stems so the energy made by the leaves goes to nourish the bulb. I think that the scapes used to be discarded by garlic farmers until they discovered there is a market for the mildly garlic flavored stems.
We also bought a couple of baskets of tender new potatoes. Some were as small as golf balls, but many were about the size of tennis balls: it’s not the size but the age of the potato that makes it new. The skin is thin and fragile and they are creamy and soft. The small potatoes sold in supermarkets are rarely really new potatoes.

First we thought of a potato soup with the garlic scapes, but it seemed a waste to use these delicate potatoes in a soup. I thought about pasta, and found many recipes for making pesto with them. J wanted a creamy sauce; this was a surprise—when did he start liking creamy pasta sauce? Maybe it’s just my Alfredo sauce…
I settled on a couple of similar recipes for “absorption” pasta. The amounts of each ingredient varied wildly between them:

Recipe A
My Recipe
Recipe B
Serves 4
Serves 3 to 4
Serves 4 as a side dish,
or 2 as a main course
1 pound orzo
12 oz. orzo
8 oz pasta
8 ounces chicken stock
1 cup chicken stock + water
2 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 onion, diced
(no onion: just forgot)
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper
3 garlic scapes
6 – 7 garlic scapes
6 garlic scapes
1 portabello mushroom plus
3 shiitake mushrooms
8 oz mushrooms
4 oz assorted mushrooms
3 ounces baby arugula
frozen spinach
3 oz baby Swiss chard
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus shavings
some Parmesan, finely grated
1 oz Parmeggiano-Reggiano, shredded
6 Tablespoons olive oil plus 2 of butter and 3 Tablespoons of “Truffle Butter”
2 Tablespoons olive oil,
2 Tablespoons butter
2 – 3 Tablespoons olive oil,
2 Tablespoons butter,
1 Tablespoon truffle oil

Heat the cream over medium low heat, to reduce by half.
Heat the chicken stock.
Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet, and sear the mushrooms. Add some ground pepper near the end of cooking. Remove to a bowl.
Wash the scapes and cut off the flower heads. Cut the stems into fork-sized lengths. Stir-fry them in the skillet, until lightly charred. Remove to a plate.
Brown the butter in the same skillet, scrapping up the fond. Remove from heat and add to the reducing cream.
Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the skillet, and over medium heat, and if you remember the onion, sauté until translucent. Add the pasta (orzo) and a grind or two of pepper. Stir to coat each grain with oil. Add 1 cup of hot chicken stock and give the pasta a good stir. Cover tightly. Allow the pasta to simmer until al denté. Check every 5 minutes or so to make sure the bottom of the pan still has liquid otherwise the pasta would stick and burn. Add hot stock as necessary. Total cooking time will be about 20 minutes.
Add the cream to the pasta and stir to mix well. Add half the onions and the garlic scapes (reserve a few for garnish) and mix well. Add arugula or Swiss chard now. I just served the cooked frozen spinach on the side. Serve on individual pasta plates. Top with the reserved half of the mushrooms and garnish with a few scapes. Serve with grated Parmesan.


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2 thoughts on “Garlic Scapes and Orzo

  1. looks delicious tess. will keep my eyes out for some of these garlic scapes. i have often had them in dim sum dishes in san francisco in the spring. i love your orzo pasta presentation and i have never cooked with them myself.

  2. I got garlic scapes at a farmer’s mkt years ago. As I recall I did use them in a pasta sauce and some in a salad. Haven’t seen them since. :(

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