Friday, June 28, 2013

Scape hummus


Garlic scapes are one of the best examples of something from nothing food - and very definitely something you'll find in a farmer's market, rather than the local chain grocery store. They are shoots that grow from hardneck garlic, and farmers cut them off, so the garlic heads will be plumper. They are often just thrown out, but for years farmers ate them themselves, and now have made a market for them. 

The Baroque curls of the stem are so exuberant - they're just fun to look at. 

And they have a distinct, though mild, garlic flavor. I found them several years ago, and have usually just cut them and sauteed them in vegetable mixtures. This time, though, I had a whole bag of them... which begged for a more distinctive use. 

I Googled scape recipes. It seems that everyone and her grandmother is making scape pesto... I don't really use pesto much, and I wasn't sure that I wanted a pesto that was quite so garlicky, so I passed on it - but that is something to try, if you find yourself with your own bag of scapes. 

I noticed a reference, in passing, to scape hummus. That's more like it - I often have hummus in the house, and frequently make my own. I had run out of tahini, though, so hadn't made any lately, as I need something to add flavor to the beans - scapes seemed perfect. 

These were quite long, and I noticed that many had slightly tough stems. I decided I wanted to blanch the lower halves, both to tenderize them and to avoid the raw garlic taste, which I don't care for. I cut them roughly in half - reserved the blossom end for later use, and cut the lower end in short manageable pieces. I put them in a metal strainer, brought a pot of water to a boil, then dipped the strainer full of scapes into the water just long enough for it to return to a boil. Then I removed the scapes from the water, and ran cold water over them, to stop the cooking. (I didn't keep the blanching water - but realized later that I should have - it would have just a little flavor and would be great as a beginning  for soup, or the water to cook other vegetables or meat. Just that hint of garlic...)

I did have cooked chickpeas in the refrigerator. I routinely cook a pot of some sort of bean, use some right away, and keep the rest for another meal. I checked, and I had about two cups, that had not been used in  the previous night's dinner. 

I have a mini food processor, as a blender attachment.  I put the blanched vegetables in it, with olive oil, to help smooth it out,  and chopped them coarsely  This was really more than I wanted to use with the amount of chickpeas I had, so I put some in a couple of small ice cube sized containers I have, to freeze. These go into a bag in the freezer, so I can add scapes to other dishes, later in the season. (I routinely have bags of chopped herbs and  aromatic vegetables in the freezer - but that will be another post...)

Then I added some of the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the food processor, and ground that until smooth. They didn't all fit, so I scooped out part of that mixture, put in the rest of the chickpeas, and ground them into the mix. Once it was all smooth, I put it all in the bowl with the first batch. Then I mixed the two batches together. 

I tasted it, and was a bit concerned that the garlic was too strong... but I wasn't planning to eat it right away, and hoped it would mellow. I packed it in a container with a lid, and put it away in the refrigerator. 

I've spoken about my salad lunches. Along with the salad, I generally have some sort of bread, or a couple of rice cakes or other crackers. One reason I like to have hummus on hand is that I'll use it as a spread for the bread or crackers. So, the next day at lunch, I spread my nice thick, creamy, green hummus on my rice cake - and cautiously took a bite.

Oh, my... it mellowed. It was wonderful. Still quite garlicky, but not raw tasting, or overwhelming. I must confess - that picture is of my second helping - I'd spread the first thinner (as I had doubts...) but then I ate it right up and started a second before I remembered that I was blogging this and needed a picture! I gave a taste to Rich, and suddenly he was spreading it on a slice of bread. I think I know what I'm going to do with the frozen scapes - more hummus!

Now - I want people to read the process, and understand how I cook without specific recipes, just guidelines. And it is important to understand that you don't always want to follow exact measurements...  What if you don't have as many scapes as I did? Or you have - and want to use - many more? What if  you have less than my two cups of chickpeas? What if you like your hummus runnier, and richer, and want to add more oil? On the other hand, I want this to be easy to follow, for people used to written recipes, so I write one up at the bottom. 

For this one, though, my amounts are really guesses. You saw the pictures of the curly scapes - how can anyone measure them? And I'm not going to tell you to put half away - the recipe, as such, will call for my guess about the amount that actually ended up in the final product. If I were writing a recipe book, I would now carefully go back, and start over, measuring each ingredient and taking notes as I went along.  Here, though, you're going to have to go with my best guess. 

Scape Hummus

1/2 c  scapes that have been cut into roughly 1 inch pieces
2 T olive oil
2 c cooked, drained chickpeas
pinch salt (opt.)

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch the scapes in it, then rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking, and cool. 

Place the scapes in a food processor, with the olive oil, and chop coarsely. Add the chickpeas. (If it doesn't all fit in your processor, do it in batches, and mix afterwards.) Add salt, if using. Process until smooth.

Put away, in a covered container in the refrigerator, and let the flavors blend and mellow overnight.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Theme: Salad dressing - Variation: Herb

We're doing the CSA again, this year. I love walking to the pickup point, and selecting my choices. We have a small share - and our CSA often handles that by listing, say, four kinds of greens and telling us to choose two. Or we have a choice between an acorn squash - in that season - and a buttercup squash, while the full share people get one of each.

Even with the small share, we have had lots of salad greens - and I'm eating salads for lunch every day, as well as side salads with some dinners. I wrote about this before in this post about salads.  I love mixing two kinds of lettuce, and arugula, and spinach, with chopped fresh radishes and peas to make a Spring salad.

And I'm not about to pour a bottled commercial salad dressing over this glorious green freshness.

Now - dressing a salad  with  the classic French oil and vinegar is an art. You take your wooden salad bowl, and rub it with a cut clove of garlic. Then you carefully tear your freshly washed greens into it, adding some fresh herbs, perhaps a scallion, and toss the greens with your salad tongs or serving spoon and fork set. Carefully pour a dribble of fruity green olive oil over the greens and toss. Then, add a pinch of salt - toss again. Then just a little good wine vinegar - about a third as much vinegar as oil, is the most traditional ratio, but you can vary it to your own taste - and toss that. Now you have your perfectly dressed salad - and, I hope, the applause of your guests.

Am I doing this on a weekday evening when I'm trying to get dinner on the table quickly? Well, no. Am I doing this to prepare a lunch salad I'm assembling in a plastic covered bowl, to go eat in a park, between clients? Be real! So I compromise. I make my own dressing - and yes, I put it in a bottle - but I control the ingredients.

A basic dressing is still as I described. Two thirds oil, one third vinegar. That can be varied infinitely, though. Olive oil, always, in my house...  Usually (but not invariably) a good sharp wine vinegar. In a pinch, I may just use that, or sprinkle in a pinch of some dried herbs - mix that first with the vinegar, it won't blend well with the oil.  I put it in an old shaker bottle from (I confess) a commercial dressing - I find the shaker bottle helps prevent it from separating in that moment between shaking and pouring.

But right now, my CSA is also giving me bunches of beautiful fresh herbs. So I don't have to compromise - I can make a perfect fresh dressing, ready to pour on every salad I eat.

In this dressing, I used sage and thyme - always a good combination, and what we happened to get. I think there's a sprig of dill in there, too...  I pulled the leaves and flowers off the stems, as I don't want woody stems in my salad. I would not have to do that with a softer herb, such as dill. If I used rosemary, I would make sure I ground it very finely, probably with a bit of salt - the needles themselves can be prickly. I then chopped the leaves coarsely, and put them, with 1/3 of a cup of white wine vinegar, and just a pinch of salt,  into the jar of a  blender.  I then blended them until the herbs were finely chopped, almost liquefied. I poured that into my handy bottle, then filled it with the oil (I know the bottle holds a cup, so I didn't have to measure the oil separately. The volume of the herbs means I'm actually using just a bit less than the full amount of oil - but it's close enough.)

Herb Dressing

Handful of fresh herbs, exact amount and variety depending on both taste and availability
1/3 c wine vinegar
pinch salt (opt.)
2/3 c virgin olive oil

Chop herbs coarsely. Place in blender jar with vinegar, and salt, if using. Blend until finely chopped. Mix vinegar herb liquid with the oil, and blend.