I’m still slowly coming back down from the high of the cooking workshop my friend Ruth and I ran last weekend. It was a magical day. One that leaves your heart full and happy. I couldn’t have hoped for better attendees and was blown away by the response and feedback they gave us. I felt overwhelmed, grateful and humbled all at the same time. The weeks/days leading up to the workshop have been quite hectic and I must admit that I’ve had a hard time managing the workload and doing it in a balanced and healthy way. But the day was so great, it made me completely forget about the crazy hours, the getting to bed at 2:30am the night before to finalize the last details, or the running around town the morning of to find ingredients that were still missing. The feeling of inspiring one person – let alone 25 people – is the most gratifying thing, and it made it feel all so incredibly worth it.
One of the things on our menu was a delicious garlic scape pesto which we used as a topping for a socca bruschetta. Most of the people present had never used or even seen garlic scapes before and it was neat to have them discover a new ingredient. I look forward to the arrival of scapes every spring. They’re so lovely and they don’t last long, so I pretty much buy them every time I see them on a market stall. Garlic scapes can be quite intimidating if you’ve never used them before. But they’re super versatile and there are many ways to enjoy them. Pesto is definitely a favourite of mine. I also like to grill them with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and enjoy them as is, preserving their beautiful shape. You can chop them and add them to salads, grill, roast, or saute them and serve them as a side dish, or use them in soups. Garlic scapes are of course garlicky, but their flavour is never nearly as strong as the bulb. Once cooked or roasted, they become tender, more mellow, with almost a hint of sweetness. Delicious.
I grilled the scapes here with a bit of sea salt and black pepper and added them to a bowl loaded with mediterranean flavours. It has quinoa, lentils, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumber and fresh parsley, tossed with a roasted red pepper tahini sauce. It’s a generous bowl, full of flavours and textures. It will leave both your belly and tastebuds very happy.
Gorgeous Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are the top part of the garlic plant. In June, the plant starts to produce scapes, these lovely stems that start to poke out and curve into circles above the leaves. The scapes are harvested to allow the plant’s energy to focus on growing the bulb. Taking the scapes off usually means bigger, more flavourful bulbs. How neat is that. Not only it’s great for the plant, but it also turns out it’s really delicious and good for us too.
Scapes contain many of the same amazing nutritional benefits that garlic has. Its most unique nutrients are its sulfur compounds, which promote the elimination of toxins and act as powerful antioxidants. Health benefits of garlic are outstanding: it helps boost the immune system, it’s anti-inflammatory, it improves cardiovascular health, it helps fight a number of cancers and is a wonderful immune-booster.
The season for garlic scapes is very short, so make sure to keep your eyes open and grab them if you see them, because they won’t be around for long.
Notes on the recipe: I grilled the garlic scapes in a skillet, but you could alternatively grill them on the BBQ.
Quinoa Bowl w/ Garlic Scapes + Red Pepper Sauce
For the bowl
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup uncooked French green lentils rinsed
- 1 bunch garlic scapes sliced in 2-3 inches pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 2/3 cup kalamata olives pitted and halved
- 3-4 small cucumbers diced
- 1/4 cup pine nuts lightly toasted
- A large handful fresh parsley chopped
For the dressing
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the quinoa
Place quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under running water. Drain.
Place quinoa in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, lower heat and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
Cook the lentils
Place lentils in a strainer and rinse well under running water. Place in a saucepan and cover with fresh water (water should reach about 2 inches above the lentils). Cover and bring to boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat and let simmer until the lentils and tender, about 20-25 minutes (try not to overcook them, you want them to retain a bite). Strain and add a good pinch of sea salt.
Make the dressing
Turn the oven to its broil setting. Place pepper on a small baking sheet and broil until charred all over, about 7-8 minutes, flipping it halfway through.
Transfer pepper to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let steam for 5-10 minutes (this will make it easy to peel). Remove peel, seeds and core.
Place the pepper flesh into a high-speed blender with all the remaining ingredients and blend. Add water, a couple tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency (I used about 1/2 cup). Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Grill the garlic scapes
Spray a large skillet with coconut oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the scapes and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Grill about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until tender and lightly charred. Alternatively, you could grill them on the BBQ.
Scoop cooked quinoa and cooked lentils into bowls. Top with grilled scapes, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts. Drizzle a generous amount of the red pepper sauce on top, and enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature.
“Always let your actions speak louder than your words.”