Garlic Scape Pesto

I realize that it's been nearly two weeks since I posted a new recipe on here, and I feel a bit guilty about that. The thing is that life has been a little crazy this month. All good things, for sure, but a lot at once and it's taken me a bit to figure out how to manage it it all without losing too much sleep.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that I spent most of last week in Vermont at Good Commons, serving as the guest chef for a 4-day yoga retreat.

It was a wonderful and intense weekend of cooking several meals a day for a group of 31 people. Several hundred pounds of vegetable went under my knife.

(And several hundred dishes went through the dishwasher!)

Once the retreat ended and the guests went home, I poured myself a generous glass of wine and went about the process of dealing with the leftover ingredients: grating squash for freezing and future quick breakfast breads, turning leftover chiles and herbs into spicy salsa, baking stale rolls and ripe berries into a large tray of bread pudding, roasting eggplant and whipping it into baba ganouche.

I also found myself with a tangle of leftover garlic scapes, and decided to make pesto to pop in the freezer for future meals (I'm going to be back up there cooking in August and October).

Garlic scape pesto is one of my new favorite things this summer, replacing my previous favorite kale pesto.

What are garlic scapes? 
If you've never tasted scapes, I recommend that you seek them out.  Garlic scapes are the long curling tops of garlic plants, which are as edible as the garlic bulbs. Thick, and smooth, they can be eaten raw and have a wonderful garlic flavor that's spicy, but much less pungent than the clove itself.
Since joining our local CSA, we've been getting fairly regular bunches of the long, curly vines, and it's been so lovely to pop them in the food processor with a little oil, some cheese, and handful of whatever nuts happen to be laying around.

They make a fantastic pesto on their own, although I usually add some greens like kale or arugula, and any herbs that look like they won't last much longer. I never follow a recipe. I just puree, taste, adjust and repeat until I get something delicious.

Eugene loves the pesto, which we toss with pasta or roasted potatoes, stir into sauces, and use as a marinade.

Yesterday I massaged it into kale (double kale!) and cooked shrimp for an easy summer salad.

My secret to creating creamy pesto without excess oil is to add water.

I learned this little tip from Chef Matthew, a fellow chef, writer and blogger that I met at Good Commons a few years ago.

A generous splash of water in the food processor helps loosen up the ingredients into a creamy spread, without the heaviness and pronounced flavor of too much olive oil. (This also works really well with hummus and bean dips.)

The pesto keeps well for weeks in the fridge, and I leave an air-tight container of it on my top shelf for daily use and inspiration. For longer storage, I divide it into baggies and freeze.

Want some fun pesto recipe ideas? Make easy homemade ravioli using wonton wrappers or toss it with black beans and dried fruit for flavor-packed lunch salad.

And you can never go wrong with an easy pesto pasta!

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Garlic Scape Pesto
Please don't feel like you have to stick to the letter of this recipe. I've included substitution ideas below, but you can really have fun with it. Use what you have. Use what you like. Multiply as necessary

2 large bunches garlic scapes (about 15 scapes), trimmed of woody ends and chopped into smaller pieces
3/4 cup chopped kale, arugula, scallions, or herbs (or a mix)
1 cup nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts, walnuts or a combination of all the above--blanched or roasted, salted or not--it all works!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cold water
Kosher salt and black pepper

Place the scapes in a food processor with the blade attached, and process for 2 minutes until finely chopped.
Add the greens or herbs, nuts, cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and water, and puree until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. 

Store in refrigerator up to one month, or portion and freeze in freezer baggies.

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