Cooking locally is a challenge to some; to me, it is just good, honest fun.
When I combine cooking locally with blogging, everything just gets that much more fun, because I get ideas from other bloggers and from commenters on my blog on recipes to use my newly-found farmers market treasures.
Take garlic scapes, for example.
Shirley, from Singapore, commented that she likes to cook them with pork and pressed tofu.
That sounded right fine and tasty to me, so last night, I had some pork I could thaw out and some pressed tofu in the fridge, so lo and behold, guess what we had for dinner?
Pork and Pressed Tofu with Garlic Scapes.
Cooking it was wonderfully fun, but eating it was even better, because I learned a few more things about garlic scapes.
First of all, the very young, new scapes, like I had last week, are very mild and somewhat sweet, with a very “green” flavor in addition to the gentle garlic taste.
I discovered last night, however, that the older scapes, like I had this week, are a bit tougher and more fiberous (so much so that I could have blanched them a little before stir-frying them) and in addition, the green flavor is overpowered by the strong tang of garlic. In fact, the garlic flavor was so strong in some of them, that they were postively HOT! It was a very good thing that I went easier on the chile peppers than I at first intended to, as many of the scapes themselves were full of enough fire and fury for most palates!
I enjoyed them, however, and they tasted great with the lightly five-spice flavored pressed tofu and the pork.
The sauce was simple, and I was happy of that; I just used some premium Chinese soy sauce, a scant teaspoon of raw sugar and a goodly splash or two of Shao hsing wine. Any more flavors would have competed with the stronger flavor of the garlic scapes and would have muddied the dish. I nearlly added fermented black beans, but left them out at the last minute, and rightly so.
I finished it off with a tiny drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and with the aromatics of some very fresh local scallions, some garlic, ginger and chiles, the entire dish came together as an enticement that really called for us to eat plenty of rice to soak up the strong, clean flavors.
Next time I make this, however, I will taste a garlic scape on its own; while the older one still have much of the texture of green beans or Chinese long beans (hrm–I wonder if they can be dry fried?), they are a bit tougher than I would necessarily like. Blanching would not only soften them up a bit, but would also tone down the intense garlic heat of them as well, and would probably make for a more balanced dish overall.
So, if you have garlic scapes to use up, taste them first, and then decide whether or not you want to blanch them before you try them in any of the recipes I have given here for them! After you have made that decision–get to cooking them–they are a valuable addition to the flavors of late spring and early summer.
I really cannot imagine not having these odd and lovely vegetables again next year, when they are in season again.
Shirley’s Pork, Pressed Tofu and Garlic Scape Stir-Fry
1/2 pound boneless lean pork loin, sliced thinly
3 teaspoons of premium soy sauce (I use Kimlan Premium Aged)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
3 large scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced on the bias
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2″ cube ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 serrano or similar red chile, thinly sliced on the bias
1 teaspoon raw sugar
3 fresh or dried (and rehydrated) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
8 ounces pressed spiced tofu, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons Shao hsing wine
1 1/2 cups trimmed garlic scapes cut into 2″ long pieces
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Mix together pork, soy sauce and cornstarch and allow to marinate 20 minutes to one hour.
Heat wok until it is smoking hot, then add peanut or canola oil. Allow to heat until oil shimmers.
Add sliced scallions, garlic, ginger and chile, and stir fry until very fragrant–about one minute.
Add meat, carefully layering it into a single layer on the bottom of the wok. Allow to remain undisturbed for about a minute, so that it may brown on the bottom. While this is going on, sprinkle sugar evenly over the top side of the meat.
When the pork smells browned, begin stir-frying. Add mushrooms and tofu, and stir fry until the pork is nearly done–3/4 of the pink color should be gone.
Deglaze the brown marinade that is stuck to the wok with the wine and soy sauce, scraping up all of the browned bits. Add the garlic scapes and stir fry until all of the meat is done, and the garlic scapes turn a deep, rich green, and the sauce is thick, glossy and clings to every bit of the food.
Take off the heat and drizzle with the sesame oil.
Scrape from wok into heated serving dish and serve immediately with steamed rice.
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