Tag Archives: vegetables

The great scape

3 Jul

If you are the type found loitering at outdoor farmers markets this time of year, or perhaps wandering the righteous aisles of locally bent organic produce shops, then it is impossible that you have not been seeing a ton of these beauties lately.


Of course, they won’t be attached to the plant, as here in the field.

Rather, they will look like so, chopped from the mother ship for the purpose of both utility and pleasure.

We’re talking garlic scapes here, an above-the-ground part of the garlic plant that rises in early summer. Scapes are removed so that the garlic bulb (or head, as we say in the meatball trade) can develop more fully.

I’m not going to name names here, but there are people, good and decent ones even, who toss their garlic scapes in the compost pile, or even into the trash. I have had a good long talk with several of these muttonheads over the years. In all cases I have been assured that such behavior would be halted going forward.

Last fall I myself planted one hell of a lot of garlic for this year’s crop. (Here’s the link with instructions, if you’re interested.) And so the garden is overrun with scapes. I’ve harvested all of them (an entire crisper drawer in the fridge is filled with scapes) and will likely have many a fine meal resulting from their use. (Here’s a pasta dish recipe where I used scapes instead of garlic cloves, for example.)

However, my favorite way to enjoy garlic scapes doesn’t require a recipe at all.

Just throw a bunch of them in a roasting dish, season with salt and pepper, and douse with a good olive oil. Toss into a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep moistened by the oil.

And you’ve got yourself one very respectable side dish.

Well worth loitering at your local farmers market right now while the scapes are around.

Grilled eggplant caponata

26 May

It being a holiday weekend I’m figuring the outdoor grills are getting a good workout. This may not look like something that can cook next to the burgers and the sausages but just be patient, all right.

What you do is throw some whole eggplant on the grill, along with a cut red onion and a head of garlic wrapped in foil.

When the eggplant is cooked through peel off the skin, shred the flesh and put it in a colander to allow the moisture to run out (weight it with something heavy and it’ll dry out faster). Then chop the onion and remove the cooked garlic flesh from the skins.

Saute some celery and pine nuts in olive oil for a couple minutes, then quickly add a chopped tomato and some drained capers for another minute (not shown). In a bowl add the contents of the pan to the eggplant, onion and garlic, toss with some extra virgin olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Not exactly a traditional Memorial Day snack, but it works just fine. For me.

Have a good holiday everybody!

String bean & potato salad

5 Aug

The first time I saw a bowl of potato salad, at a summer barbecue in my Uncle Chick’s backyard, I looked straight into My Sainted Mother’s eyes and demanded an explanation.

“Why is it white?” I whined. “And what happened to the string beans?”

“This is different,” mom said scooping a bit of the colorless mass onto my plate, the plate that was filled with bright roasted red peppers and charred fatty Italian sweet sausages hot off the grill. “Try some, it’s good.”

And so another favorite food was discovered. I like potato salad a lot, eat it alongside burgers all the time. Hell, give me a bowl of the German style, a loaf of pumpernickel bread, and a quiet spot where I can be alone and I am all set, thank you very much.

But the “potato salad” that I first knew as a boy, the one that my Italian-American mother prepared beautifully (and regularly), is still the best, I think. Not that the comparison makes the slightest bit of sense, mind you. After all, we are talking about a string bean salad.

You following me here?

Good. Because it’s a perfect summer salad, especially welcome at outdoor cooking events. Oh, and it’s a total no-brainer to prepare.

You get yourself a mess of string beans. (These are from my garden but store bought work just fine.)

Boil the beans, and a couple of diced potatoes, until tender. After they’ve cooled a bit put them in a mixing bowl and add some sliced red onion, a diced garlic clove, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Then just mix it all up and you are done.

Some people like string bean & potato salad cold from the fridge, others at room temperature. I like it either way.

No matter what it’s called.

How to roast peppers

1 Jul

I go through a lot of these things, especially in the summer. Far more sweet peppers get run through the outdoor gas grill than anything else I can think of.  And practically every one of them is whole roasted.

This won’t take but a minute, I promise.

All you do is fire up the grill and bring the temperature to around 400 degrees F or so. Then lay the peppers down and close the cover; flip them a couple times so that they cook evenly. (This works just as well in an indoor oven, but use a pan for the peppers to catch any moisture that leaks out.)

Once they’re cooked toss the peppers into a brown paper bag and roll the top of the bag closed. This helps the skins to separate and peel off more easily.

Leave the peppers in the bag until they cool to room temperature, then peel them, remove the inner seeds and slice into whichever size pieces you prefer.

Toss the peppers with some garlic and extra virgin olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and any herbs you might like. (Many people use vinegar as well, but I don’t.)

And there you go. You can eat them right away or they’ll keep for a while in the fridge.

Around here they don’t last more than a day or two, and so pretty soon it’s back to the grill for another round.

Broccoli rabe with potatoes

28 Feb
One night when I was a boy I rolled out of bed in the middle of the night and crushed the back of my skull on the sharp corner of a massive cast iron radiator. We’re talking actual trauma here, folks. The dent that it left on the back of my head is still there. 
I tell you this because it is perhaps the only way to explain why I never put these two vegetables together before today. 
Seems my brother Joe has been right all these years. I really did get a lot less smart after that head cracking.
And so I’ll thank one Julia della Croce for setting me straight in this vegetative matter. In her very nice cookbook, Italian Home Cooking, there is a recipe called “Viola Buitoni’s Sauteed Broccoli Rapini with Potatoes.” 
The only thing that kept me from smacking myself upside the head when I came upon this brilliant joining of two vegetables was the fear of doing any more damage than already has been done. 
This is simple stuff we’re talking about. You boil a couple of potatoes and peel them after they’ve cooled. Just don’t let them get soft, because you’ll be cutting them into pieces for frying later.
Take a mess of whole garlic cloves and saute them nice and slow in olive oil, then set aside. While you’re doing this, take a bunch of broccoli rabe, chop it into 3-inch pieces, cook in salted water for about 5 minutes and drain.
Fry the potatoes until golden. Then add in the rabe and garlic to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and mix together thoroughly.
Are we talking head-smacking material here or what?