Pesto is all about summer. It tastes like the sun setting at 8:30 pm, like fireflies blinking in the distance, like saltwater and sand and waves. When the weather is hot, I can’t get enough.

I like experimenting with pesto. Not only can you make the traditional basil-olive oil-Parmesan-pine nuts-garlic variety, but you can substitute any number of ingredients in that list with others. For instance, arugula instead of basil, or walnuts instead of pine nuts. Yesterday it was about garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the curling flower stalks that grow from the bulb of garlic plants. If you’ve been to a farmers’ market recently you have likely seen these green tentacles piled high on tables. The season is very short—not to sound like Chicken Little but it will be ending soon—so scoop them up now.

They have a similar garlicky-onion taste as scallions or ramps and can be used in much the same way. I harvested heaps of basil from my little herb garden Saturday so I knew a pesto was in order. I had a big bag of scapes in my fridge that travelled with me from Kate’s garden in Vermont earlier in the week. The math was simple: scapes + basil = a delicious pesto for dinner.

I picked up a pound of scallops (I love scallops drizzled with pesto), whole wheat linguine, and greens for a salad. Risking pesto overkill, I decided I’d serve the pesto over both the scallops and linguine. Like I said, this time of year, I can’t get enough.

Garlic Scape Pesto

5 c basil
a chunk of Parmesan (roughly 1/4 pound)
3/4 c walnuts*
5-6 stalks of garlic scapes, bottom few inches trimmed off and discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 – 3/4 c good olive oil
salt

Makes 2 c of pesto

*You can use pine nuts in addition or instead but the price of pine nuts has soared recently and at $34 a pound I pass over pignoli for the cheaper but still flavorful walnut.

In a food processor, add the basil, Parmesan (cut into chunks), walnuts, and scapes. Start pulsing and gradually pour in the olive oil through the feeder tube. Use more or less olive oil according to your preference, same with salt. After a minute or two of pulsing you’ll have a fragrant, delicious spread for breads, pasta, vegetables, or fish. (If you have an ice cream maker: I dare you.) Blend more for smoother pesto, less for chunkier. I think it would also be nice to add the zest of 1 lemon here, but I didn’t do that this time around.

As for the scallops, I washed about 1 pound and patted them dry as much as possible, adding salt and pepper to each side, then sautéed them in a cast iron skillet in 1-2 tbsp butter for 2-3 minutes on each side.

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