Garlic Scape Chimichurri
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Ever try a food and think to yourself, “Oh man, why isn’t this more popular?” That was me and garlic scapes. Honestly, they’ve got so much going for them. Healthy green veggie? Check. Easy to cook/work with? Check. Fun to look at? Check. Tastes like garlic? Uhhh, CHECK.
If you’ve ever gotten your hands on garlic scapes, there’s a decent chance you’ve gotten quite a few of them. I get a lot from my CSA (community supported agriculture) pickups in June, and many home gardeners also find that they end up with something of a surplus. They’re lovely sauteed, and they make absolutely stellar pesto, but they can do so much more too. Case in point: tangy, delicious, wonderfully piquant garlic scape chimichurri.
If you haven’t already jumped down to the recipe in a fit of garlic-loving zeal, you may be wondering one of two things: what are garlic scapes, and/or what is chimichurri? Let’s take a brief look at both of those questions.
Garlic scapes are the twisty young flower stalks that grow from hard-neck garlic varieties in the spring. I’ve written a detailed guide to finding, choosing, and using garlic scapes, so do check that out if you’re new to the subject or looking for some detailed help. True garlic is broadly categorized into hard-neck and soft-neck varieties. Hard-neck garlic grows a stiff central stem (the eponymous ‘hard neck’) while soft-neck garlic grows, surprise surprise, soft, leafier stalks. Hard-neck garlic varieties are more commonly grown in cooler climates, while soft-neck varieties are typically grown in warmer areas. Given that soft-neck garlic is the most common type of garlic grown on a commercial scale, and the fact that it doesn’t produce scapes, it’s somewhat understandable that garlic scapes aren’t the most widely-known of vegetables. That being said, garlic scapes are one of those logical, no-waste veggies that we really should be eating; good growing practices necessitate the removal of the scapes in order to encourage the hard-neck garlic plant to devote energy to bulb production, rather than flowering. Because of this, virtually all garlic growers will remove the scapes en masse in the spring. Couple this necessity with a resurgence in home gardening, farmers markets, and CSAs, and you’ve got a tasty, twisty treats that’s starting to get some much-deserved time in the spotlight.
Now, what about chimichurri? Well, it’s a delightful, very flavourful uncooked sauce made from chopped herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. It’s also very fun to say. Chimichurri originally hails from parts South America, where it’s particularly popular as a condiment for grilled meats. I’ve actually got another recipe for chimichurri (using mint!) already up on the site because I’m a very big fan of all things garlicky and good. This recipe was a no brainer for me, as garlic scapes are absolutely perfect for making chimichurri. After all, they provide green and garlic flavours all in one neat little package. You can also chop garlic scapes as coarsely or as finely as you like, making them perfect for adapting the texture of your chimichurri to your tastes. Garlic scape chimichurri is, of course, fantastic with grilled meats (it’s particularly nice with flank or skirt steak and other lean beef cuts) – but don’t feel like you’re limited to that serving option! It’s also a wonderful accompaniment to eggs, roast chicken, and root vegetables (especially potatoes). You can mix it with tomatoes and fruit to make a bold salsa (something I did with my mint chimichurri), or even thin it out a bit and use it as a salad dressing. Garlic lovers rejoice!
Garlic scapes are obviously the star in this chimichurri recipe, but there’s actually quite a bit going on with the other ingredients. In this section you’ll find a few tips about the ingredients, substitutions, and preparation. That being said, this is a wonderfully easy recipe to put together. I mean, there’s literally one step in the instructions, folks. Don’t worry too much about the details, and start thinking about all the tasty ways you’re going to use this amazing sauce!
Prepping Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are generally easy to use – snip off the unopened flower at the end (including the tough area at the base of the flower) and you’re usually good to go (you can learn more about prepping garlic scapes in this Ingredient Page guide). That being said, you may occasionally get older garlic scapes that have a somewhat tough, fibrous outer layer on the stalk. This isn’t ideal, and it can be especially frustrating in a textural dish like this one. If you’re worried that your scapes might be overly tough, try cutting off and eating a little portion. If the skin is thick or fibrous, you can carefully peel it off with a vegetable peeler. Try not to peel too deep, or you’ll lose a lot of the good stuff in the center.
Unlike pesto, chimichurri is best with a relatively chunky texture, so I recommend hand-chopping the ingredients, rather than using a blender or food processor. That being said, I like to use a food processor just to chop up the garlic scapes. It saves time, and they still stay fairly chunky (you can see what I mean in the photos). I then hand chop the herbs, shallots, and the chili pepper before mixing everything together by hand.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how chunky you want the chimichurri to be, and if you do want to throw everything together in a food processor (etc.), go right ahead, but try not to reduce it to a fine puree. Unless, you know, you’re making chimichurri soup… which, honestly doesn’t sound too bad.
You can switch things up within this recipe in two primary ways: with the garlic scape aspect, and with the herbs.
It might seem a bit odd to imagine taking the garlic scapes out of a garlic scape chimichurri recipe, but there are actually a number of similar ingredients that can be swapped in fairly effortlessly. First and foremost, you can often find flowering garlic chive stalks at larger Asian/Chinese supermarkets. These vibrant green stalks, topped with small flower buds, are very similar to garlic scapes in terms of flavour. Flowering garlic chives are, unsurprisingly, the flower stalks of the garlic chive, or Chinese chive. You can also find these long, grass-like leafy greens in Asian grocery stores, and they can also be used in this recipe. A word of caution though – garlic chive leaves can be VERY garlicky tasting, and they don’t have the same texture that you find in the flower stalks or in garlic scapes. If you do decide to use garlic chives, I would consider using a little bit less, and a little more parsley.
It’s also worth noting that elephant garlic (which is actually a type of leek) also produces scapes very similar to those made by hard-neck garlic. These elephant garlic scapes are generally not available on a commercial scale, but if you grow elephant garlic (or know someone who does), you can easily swap them into this recipe.
As for the herbs, I used a blend of flat leaf parsley and fresh (not dried) oregano. You can just use parsley if you like, or you could try swapping in some other herbs. I would stay relatively neutral however, and avoid very strong herbs like basil or rosemary. Celery greens would make an excellent addition or substitution, and this would be a nice way to use them up. If you have particularly nice, tender carrot greens, you could definitely use those too. Yes, you can eat carrot greens!
Finally, a note about the chilies. A little bit of diced chili pepper is often used to make chimichurri, but you can omit it if you like, or use a very mild chili variety if you want to go easy on the spice. I personally like how a little bit of the bright chili heat plays against the mellow, pungent heat of raw garlic. Spice fans can add extra chili of course, but I like to keep this sauce a bit on the mellower side so that I can serve a lot of it.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/10th portion of the total recipe), and does NOT include meat, eggs, or any other serving suggestions.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Garlic Scape Chimichurri
- 1/2 lb garlic scapes finely chopped (see note)
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano finely chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 1 medium shallot finely chopped
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 small red chili pepper minced (optional)
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl or container and mix thoroughly. Set aside for an hour to let the flavours mingle. Ta-da.