Tag Archives: garlic

Pasta with garlic scapes & walnuts

15 Jul


Growing 200-plus head of garlic every year (232 this season, thank you very much) I go through a lot of garlic scapes. I’m sure you’re seeing them at the farm stands and at your better grocery stores right about now.

It’s the season. And it doesn’t last long.

Most of the scapes that I don’t pass along to friends wind up being roasted as a side dish, but plenty find their way into a simple aglio e olio (literally, garlic and oil) sauce with my pasta. I like swapping the garlic cloves for the scapes because it adds a really nice texture to the aglio e olio. This version we have here also includes walnuts, which adds both texture and flavor.

It’s one of those super simple pasta dishes that you wind up craving over and over, so give it a try while the scapes are still around. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until next year.


Get your pasta water going because this won’t take more than a few minutes. Then grab a few scapes (I’ve used four here, as I was only feeding myself on this occasion).


Remove the tips (seen at rear) and chop the scapes and some hot pepper up, like so. You’ll also need a small handful of chopped walnuts.


Saute in olive oil for a few minutes, or just until the scapes have softened (just don’t let them get crispy). Oh, and I’ve also added a few anchovy filets, even though I know most of you won’t. (C’mon, live a little, anchovies are awesome!)


When your pasta is just shy of al dente turn up the heat under the scapes and add the pasta to the pan.


Then add some of the (well-salted) pasta water and incorporate.


After the water has all but evaporated (a minute or so) you are good to go.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, garlic scapes can last for weeks in the fridge, so don’t be shy about stocking up the next time you run across them.

I mean, can you ever have enough aglio e olio?

Grilled garlic scapes

9 Aug

I know that this isn’t going to be very much help this time of year. After all, where are you going to find garlic scapes in August?

Thing is, either I share with you this quick and easy way to prepare the things or I don’t. So what if it’ll have to wait til next summer before you try it. You’re in a hurry or something?

These aren’t the last of my garlic scapes. I harvested all 230 or so of them in late June and still haven’t used them all up. They’re stored in a refrigerator in the basement and so I often forget that they’re there. Good thing they last a while before going bad, a good couple months if not longer actually.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the scapes are the flower bud of a garlic plant. They’re removed in early summer to help strengthen the garlic bulb. If you didn’t remove the scape a flower would grow out of its tip.

Garlic scapes are used in all kinds of ways, as they taste just like garlic. But my favorite way to use them is straight-up grilled or roasted and served as a vegetable. As the weather has been pretty warm these past few weeks I’ve been loathe to turn on the oven, so the gas grill outside has been getting a good workout.

Don’t worry about paying careful attention here, okay, because there really is nothing to this at all. Just toss the scapes in olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Throw them on the grill, preheated to around 350F or so, and put the cover down.

Toss the scapes around a couple times until they’re softened and a little charred, which shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes or so.

And that is all there is to it.

Now all you have to do is get out your smartphone, tap into the calendar app, and put in a reminder for early next summer to give it a go.

Unless, of course, you live nearby. In which case you can just swing by. There’s still a batch of scapes left in the basement fridge, and you’re welcome to them.

Time to harvest the garlic

6 Aug

Last fall I planted around 80 garlic cloves, half in late September (here are the step-by-step instructions) and the rest about a month later. Last week I harvested the whole lot of them. And figured that you might want to have a look.

The rule of thumb is to wait until around two-thirds of the plant has turned brown before harvesting garlic.

You need to dig up the soil around the plant in order to avoid damaging the garlic head.

There will be a lot of roots under the head, and likely a lot of dirt packed into them.

I used a hose to gently clean the roots, then allowed things to completely dry out in the sun for a couple days.

Then I tied together several batches of the dried stalks with twine, six to eight stalks to a batch.

And hung all of them in the garage, where they’ll stay for maybe a month like this. After that I’ll take them down, cut off the stalks and store the individual garlic heads in some type of mesh bag throughout the winter.

If they last that long.

Which they won’t.

But you knew that.

Shrimp & sausage scampi

28 Jul

This is just one of maybe six or seven dishes plowed through last evening, by a mere four humans. Not to mention the seven bottles of, uh, grape-based beverages consumed.

It was the only food item prepared by yours truly.

After shelling and deveining a pound and a half of large shrimp I made a stock with the shells, a carrot, onion, celery stalk, bay leaf and some peppercorns. Of course, any old stock you have around the house would be fine.

Using some of the stock and a little wine I sauteed a pound and a quarter of Italian sweet sausage meat, then set it aside for later.

This is two heads’ worth of garlic sauteing in olive oil, and they came directly from the garden.

The shrimp and a bunch of the stock went in with the garlic.

Then came the cooked sausage meat.

And a pound of spaghetti alla chitarra.

Some fresh parsley on top and there you go.

I gotta go walk this off.

How to plant garlic—today!

23 Sep

Want to grow your own garlic? Right now is the time to plant for next year.

All you’ll need to get started is some garlic heads, because it’s the cloves that go into the ground. I planted mine this past week.

I’ve known people (my uncle Dominic, for instance) who could grow anything, anywhere, no matter what the condition of the soil. I’m not one of those people. I add compost and organic fertilizer to my soil, both at the beginning and end of the season. On September 17th, my mother’s birthday as it happens, I amended the soil where next year’s garlic would be planted.

Loosening the soil is a must before starting out. I’m planting in raised beds here, but I’ve heard that people grow garlic in pots, too. I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work, and so if that’s your preference (or best available option), I say go with it.

Punch a series of small holes in the soil about six inches apart with whatever tool you like (I just use my fingers or a stick) and you’re ready to go.

This garlic came from a farm about an hour from my home. I chose it for two reasons: I’ve cooked with it before and like it a lot; and I know for a fact that it’s been grown successfully in my area. Garlic can grow year round in mild climates, but I don’t live in a mild climate, I live in Maine. In places where winters are cold, the idea is to plant early enough in the Fall that roots can establish before the ground freezes. I know plenty of people who grow whatever garlic they can get their hands on, and so I’m probably just being overly cautious on picking a garlic for planting. Do whatever you think is best and I’m sure things will turn out fine.

This garlic is also pricey ($11 a pound). However, four big heads amounted to more than 40 garlic cloves that were suitable for planting. By suitable I mean that they were large. You know those little cloves that you find near the center of many garlic heads, especially the ones most supermarkets carry? Don’t plant those. Try and plant only the larger cloves, like those that are around the outer portion of the head.

Anyway, all you need to do is break apart your garlic heads. And don’t bother peeling the skin off of the cloves, because it isn’t necessary.

There are two critical things to make certain of when planting garlic: The cloves must go into the ground pointed side up, flat side down; and they must be buried at least two inches deep.

Leaving six inches between cloves is plenty of space for garlic to grow nicely, though I left a little more than that.

After covering the cloves with soil, I laid down a few inches of mulch as protection from the cold. I don’t remove the mulch come spring because it helps to control the weeds all summer long.

And I’m hoping that late next summer I’ll harvest garlic that looks just like this.

Maybe you will too.

Garlic, vinegar, cheese, oh my!

24 May
I’m headed out for the first bike trip of the season. (In the rain, yeah. Don’t ask.)
While I’m out there dodging the raindrops and the text-while-you-drive idiots and the 80 mph trucks that forever conspire to ruin me, here is a dish you might find comforting in the days ahead.
It is one of my faves, this bowl of pasta. As soon as I laid eyes on the recipe, a dozen or so years ago now, I knew it was for me. The book in which it resides, Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s “The Splendid Table,” is worth having on the shelf. All the recipes are from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region and there isn’t a clunker in the lot. The pasta recipes alone, 56 in all, are worth the price of admission.
Anyhow, I need to get going. Have a good Memorial Day weekend. And be happy that you are in the comfort of your home, smelling the lovely garlic braising on the stovetop, instead of slogging through the slick New England highways and backroads with a meatball like me.
Pasta with Braised Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar
Recipe adapted from “The Splendid Table,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 quarts salted water
1 pound pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 to 10 tsps artisan-made or high-quality commercial balsamic vinegar (if using commercial, blend in 1 teaspoon brown sugar) [NOTE: If you’re not willing to spend big bucks on super high quality balsamic, or take Kasper’s advice about the brown sugar, don’t bother making this. —MM] 
Working Ahead: The garlic can be braised up to 8 hours ahead. Set it aside, covered, at room temperature. The dish is best finished and eaten right away.
Braising the Garlic: In a large heavy skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over the lowest possible heat 8 minutes, or until the garlic is barely colored to pale blond and very tender. Stir it frequently with a wooden spatula. Do not let the garlic turn medium to dark brown, as it will be bitter.
Cooking the Pasta: Warm a serving bowl and shallow soup dishes in a low oven. As the garlic braises, bring the salted water to a fierce boil, and drop in the pasta. Stir occasionally. Cook only a few moments for fresh pasta, and up to 10 minutes for dried pasta. Taste for doneness, making sure the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the cooking water into the cooked garlic just before draining the pasta. Drain in a colander.
Finishing and Serving: Remove the garlic from the heat and add the hot drained pasta. Toss with two wooden spatulas. Season with salt and pepper. Now toss with all of the cheese. Turn into the heated serving bowl. As you serve the pasta, sprinkle each plateful with a teaspoon or two of the vinegar.

There is no joy at 30,000 feet

28 Oct
Some years back I had occasion to spend a morning with the head chef of a major airline caterer. This was in Dallas, if memory serves.
We toured a hangar-sized kitchen, inspected meals being prepared, rode around in a golf cart observing food deliveries to various aircraft; just your average shift for a guy responsible to feed tens of thousands of (largely dissatisfied) customers every day.
I do not recall much of our conversation, but will never in my life forget that poor man’s face when I joked about a particularly heinous dish we happened to be tasting.
“You have heard of garlic,” I said forcing down a limp, pale (egg?) noodle in a sauce that only an airline or a Third World penal facility could fathom. “Right, chef?”
I smiled broadly, to reinforce the innocent nature of my jest.
The chef did not smile. Not at all.
“No, no, garlic is not good,” he cried loudly and in a stern Eastern European manner that could chill a peperoncino. “Cauliflower also is not good. To me the two are the same. Exactly the same. No difference whatsoever. Not to me.”
Just then a younger man in his employ approached and the two chefs stepped away, possibly to plan their escape from the half-witted visitor who was unaware that garlic and cauliflower grew from the same seed.
I sweated over this, strategized as to how I might undo the offense, but when Chef returned moments later he had, mercifully, recovered from his agitated state.
“Where were we… oh yes, the garlic,” he began. “It smells. Many people do not care for its odor. Same is true with cauliflower.”
He smiled in a way that suggested we were pals once more.
“Remember that my dining room is a pressurized cabin into which the huddled masses march,” he went on, pointing to the dozen or so aircraft in our sight.
“The food must be for everyone, you see. And so, it is for noone.”
A European philosopher trapped inside an airport kitchen in Texas.
I thought about Chef the other evening. I was explaining to a friend (let’s just call her Afflicted Person 1, shall we) my method of calculating the amount of garlic that I use when working from a recipe that is not my own. It’s a formula actually, though I’ll admit it isn’t scientific. It’s pretty hard to describe, too, now that I think about it, let alone follow.
Hell, it isn’t a formula at all, okay. All I do is double, triple or quadruple the garlic, depending on the recipe and what I determine to be its author’s culinary sensibility. I’ve probably used more garlic than that even — further proof, if you needed any, that my whole formula idea is just a load of crap.
I like the stuff, okay. And feel sympathy for people who either don’t like it, or (I can barely say it) choose not to make very much use of it. (That means you, AP1.)
Perhaps more than any single food item, garlic gives me the most joy. Counting the heads that have passed through my hands would be like trying to determine how many meatballs I’ve eaten. Don’t waste your time. I already have tried, and it nearly drove me to madness.
But the main reason old Chef blew into my brain that night was the dish I was preparing. He would not have approved of the recipe. Not in his mile-high dining room, he wouldn’t have. Just no possible way.
I present to you the spaghetti nero di seppia con aglio e cavolfiore (squid ink spaghetti with both garlic AND cauliflower).
I’m guessing the huddled masses won’t be marching through my dining room anytime soon.
Spaghetti with garlic and cauliflower
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8-10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small hot pepper, chopped fine
4 anchovy fillets (Chef would not approve of this either)
1 small cauliflower
1/2 lb. pasta (I used the squid ink but any kind will do)
Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
In a pot suitable to boil the pasta, cook the cauliflower in well-salted water until done to your liking. Remove the cauliflower but keep the water boiling; start cooking the pasta in the same water.
In a pan large enough to accommodate the cauliflower and pasta, saute the garlic, pepper and anchovies in the oil for a couple minutes, then add the cauliflower and incorporate.
When the pasta is a minute away from being done add it to the pan on high heat (but be sure not to toss away all the pasta water).
Add a ladle or two of the water to the pan, depending on how moist you like your pasta, and quickly mix everything together.
Plate and top with grated cheese to taste.
Pasta and Cauliflower Recipe - Allrecipes.com on Foodista