Scapes and Squid

I’ve been traveling a lot, but this weekend was all about Brooklyn. Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park and a 24-hour diner in Bay Ridge were all on the agenda. My friend Dana and her girlfriend Kathleen were coming for dinner on Sunday, so I swung by the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. It was, indeed, quite green. I came home with three kinds of kale, mint, chives, baby red jacket potatoes, radishes, sugar snap peas, and garlic scapes. (I also bought squid, hot turkey sausage and slab bacon, but had a tough time working them into this composition.)

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I was first lured into buying scapes a few years ago; something about their sinuous curves proved irresistible. A scape is a stem that shoots up from the garlic bulb and produces a small flower. Farmers trim them so that their garlic bulbs will continue to grow. They’re similar to garlic in flavor, but not as sharp. Scapes are tasty cooked, but I think they really shine when eaten raw. Here’s just one in an endless number of riffs on scape pesto. (Note that it freezes beautifully.)

Scape Pesto

  • 6 garlic scapes, ends and tips removed
  • 1/3 cup marcona almonds (you could use regular almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, etc., though I would recommend lightly toasting them first)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (good quality, because this isn’t going to be cooked)
  • 30-40 fresh mint leaves (this could be basil, parsley, cilantro, etc.)
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)
  • pinch of sugar (if needed)

Blend the first five ingredients in a food processor, adding water a little at a time  to loosen the mixture enough that it becomes a rough paste. (You could also just add more olive oil, but we’ve got bacon and butter coming further down the page.) Add salt, pepper and, if needed, a pinch of sugar to taste.

I’d texted Dana from the greenmarket to confirm that she eats squid. Her reply came just as I walked in the door: “I eat squid, but am not the hugest fan ever.” The pressure was on. I didn’t really have a plan, but had gotten it in my head that I wanted to make a single dish that married the scapes, squid, potatoes and sugar snap peas into a sort of warm composed salad.

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A lot of people find the prospect of cooking squid intimidating, but it’s easy. The key is to cook it very quickly (grilled, fried, boiled or sautéed) or to cook it very slowly (in a traditional Italian red sauce or a fisherman’s stew perhaps). Anything in between yields the rubbery texture of late-night diner calamari.

Scapes and Squid

  • 3 cloves pressed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • pinch each of dried oregano, Aleppo pepper and red pepper flakes
  • smoked sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1.5 pounds cleaned squid

Combine all ingredients and let sit for at least one hour and up to six hours.

  • 1 batch scape pesto (see above)
  • 15-20 small red potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 3 ounces slab bacon (or other smoked fatty pork product)
  • 1 preserved lemon (a regular lemon would also work), flesh removed and rind sliced into slivers
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8-12 fresh mint leaves

While the squid marinates, slice the potatoes and parboil them in salted water until they are just fork tender. Removed the strings from the sugar snap peas and blanch them in the salted water for just a couple of minutes, taking care to cool them down quickly so that they stay crisp and bright green.

At this point, you can knock off and enjoy a glass or two of a nice crisp white wine or a rose until just before you’re ready to eat.

Cut the bacon into small pieces (you may recognize these as lardon) and render them in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a second pan, melt the butter with the preserved lemon rind over medium heat. When it has stopped foaming, add the potatoes, cut side down.

When the bacon is starting to crisp but is still meaty, push the pieces to the edge of the pan and add as many of the squid bodies as will fit in a single layer. Cook until the squid turns an opaque white on the bottom and then flip. When the other side turns white, pile them at the edge of the pan and add another layer, repeating the process until all of the squid is cooked.

When the potatoes have browned, add the sugar snap peas and stir until they are just heated through.

Spoon the potatoes and peas onto a platter and then add the bacon and squid as well as any juices left in the pan. Drizzle the whole thing with scape pesto and top with some thinly sliced mint leaves.

Dana, the squid skeptic, went back for thirds.

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