With farmers markets around the country in full swing, a look around your local market will probably reveal all manner of colorful produce that you’d never see in a supermarket.
The long twisting tendrils of garlic scapes are one of the more unusual items that show up around this time and if you happen to see them, get them while you can. The pungent green stalks are the stems of the garlic plant and are best eaten while they’re still young and tender. They’re tamer than the bulbs, and when cooked they become sweet, with a texture similar to asparagus.
Garlic scapes are a delightful addition to stir-fries and pastas, but I love simply boiling them in salted water and having them in a salad. It makes for a unique appetizer or side, but it’s also hearty enough that you could have this as a meal with a slice of crusty bread.
The savory oyster sauce dressing gives the salad a wonderful depth of flavor with a pleasant sweetness and lingering umami. Since the oyster sauce is the star ingredient, try and find one that actually contains oysters as many of the cheaper ones rely on MSG and artificial flavors to mimic the flavor of the tasty bivalves.
Because the scapes tend to be pretty fibrous, they require a bit more cooking time than other vegetables, but for your patience, you’ll be rewarded with tender sweet stalks that are mildly perfumed with garlic.
Garlic Scape Salad with Shrimp
- 5 ounces garlic scapes, tough bottoms trimmed and cut into 2" lengths
- 1/2 head of butter leaf lettuce roughly torn
- 4 ounces shrimp, shelled and cleaned
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- salt to taste
- cilantro (optional)
- Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise. Prepare a medium bowl filled with ice water.
- In a separate bowl, add the lettuce and fill with cold water. The lettuce will absorb the cold water, making them crisp.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, oyster sauce, sesame seeds and soy sauce to make the dressing.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and then add the garlic scapes. Boil until tender (about 5 minutes). Remove the garlic scapes from the water with a slotted spoon and plunge in the ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.
- Add the shrimp to the boiling water, and cook until the shrimp has changed color (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Drain the scapes, shrimp and lettuce, pat dry with paper towels (or use a salad spinner) and add to the dressing. Toss to coat, then salt to taste if needed. Plate the salad, garnishing with cilantro.
Yield: 4 servings (as a side)
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.