It can be a bit annoying for a seasonal cook reading Northern Hemisphere food blogs. Like what the hell are “garlic scapes“, known for their extreme curliness, which are bursting into their brief season in the Northern Hemisphere now? Are they – as I strongly suspect – the same dead straight thingies that are imported into Australia from China and sold as “garlic stems”? Inquiring cooks need to know.
Another recent mention of these garlic scapes came from Heidi Swanson who lives in San Francisco and writes the humungously popular 101 Cookbooks. Last week she published a recipe for Broccoli Pesto and Fusilli Pasta.
Her vegetarian recipes are known for using lots of wholegrains and a very wide variety of foods, both things I heartily approve of. However I usually avoid the comment threads – they tend to be very long and have lots of comments like “wow! that looks great, Heidi! I’m gonna make it real soon!” (Although here I did enjoy the three identical comments from Michael in Greece who is cut because he can’t get nice cheap broccoli there in May (suck it up, dude), and Ann’s questioning whether it would be OK to have it on brown rice instead. She didn’t sign herself off as “Ann, aged 11” and has no blog that I can check for omg ponies! so I presume she is a grown-up.)
Although broccoli is available pretty much year-round in supermarkets, it’s best in the colder months. Still, a late spring broccoli pasta is not really going to be what you want when it’s really starting to get quite bloody cold here, and has been drizzling all day to boot.
The original recipe, linked above, features a pesto tweaking the traditional elements used in a basil (aka Genovese) pesto – broccoli, not basil, walnuts, not pine nuts (hey Ann – I used pecans! I didn’t even ask!), parmesan cheese, garlic and oil. It includes lemon juice, which I usually include too. The pesto is served on wholegrain pasta (be careful not to overcook, Ann! wholegrain pasta is intolerant of overcooking and will lose all bounciness earlier than your regular pasta!).
Broccoli pesto isn’t like basil pesto in that you won’t be tempted to eat it by the spoonful out of the jar. Despite that, it has more to offer than the wholesome virtue factor that might initially appear to be it’s chief appeal. It makes a great solidly fresh base note when balanced with something sharply green and something intensely savoury.
I used kale instead of the recommended chard or spinach because it is pretty and we had some from Choku Bai Jo. And, because we needed a bit of sooky sweetness, I added some leeks caramelised with some Maggie Beer vino cotto and a tiny smidge of Kimlan, the bestest soy sauce evah. The dirtiness of leeks is handy because it provides a nifty excuse to show the Vietnamese strainer in a basket I should have included in my recent gadgets post. I like being able to use the water on the garden – even just flinging it out the door onto the grass is better than pouring it down the sink. You can use a salad spinner the same way, but these cost under five bucks and are handy if you want heaps of clean greens.
Leftover pesto the next day made a great lunch with some sliced green onions and small squares of extra firm tofu quickly fried with a splash of intensely savoury Japanese Flavour in a Bottle from Just Hungry.
After that, Ann, you’re on your own.