Garlic pops up continually on my gardening calendar. With a dozen heads of two garlic varieties from Purple Frog Gardens in Whitefish, I started the bed in early October 2013. Every year since, we watch the cloves sprout in spring, see the plants grow to thigh height by summer and then dig up the entire bed when the leaves yellow, letting the heads cure until the papery skins and roots are dry. Most garlic cloves end up in my kitchen, but I always save some for fall planting, continuing the cycle. From those original dozen, we annually grow about 100 heads of garlic.
The gift of hardneck garlic keeps giving: for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been harvesting garlic scapes, stems that grow up from the bulb’s center until they curl and eventually flower. Cutting them off sends more energy to the garlic bulbs, and the scapes have a mellow garlicky taste.
I learned the hard way to catch scapes early. Spiraling scapes are fun to look at, but the stalks get woody the longer they grow. Tender scapes can be sliced onto salads or into stir-fry, minced for pesto or savory jam and even pickled.
Scapes also shine in aioli, a rich, garlicky mayonnaise so packed with flavor it seems unrelated to commercial American mayo. Making it from scratch takes few ingredients and little time. Like a salad dressing, the challenge is getting the ingredients to blend smoothly. Garlic, as an emulsifier, helps pull the mixture together and keep it that way.
Also like a salad dressing, aioli is highly adaptable. Substitute a garlic clove for the scapes, or replace some or all of the lemon juice with water. For a recent batch, I threw in a tablespoon of dill fronds; those heads self-seeded last fall, and I weeded their sprouts from the garden path as I cut off garlic scapes. Blending at high speed can distribute the phenols in olive oil, especially extra-virgin quality, which some people find bitter. If that happens, try blending the aioli with a lower-grade olive oil or with a neutral one like grapeseed, whisking in a tablespoon of olive oil by hand at the end.
Garlic Scape Aioli
Makes about 2/3 cup
1-1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic scapes
1/8 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
9 tablespoons olive oil
Coarsely chop the garlic scapes, trimming off and composting the flower bud and the grassy tip above it. Place in a small food processor with the salt and mince finely. Add the lemon juice, egg yolk, sugar and pepper; measure out the oil in a small measuring cup or bowl with a pour spout. Process the scapes-egg mixture at high speed until it emulsifies. With the processor running, pour in the oil very slowly until entirely blended and unbroken. Use immediately, or transfer to a lidded container; the aioli will keep refrigerated for a few days.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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