2021 Summer Challenge Extended – Can I cook my way thru my C.S.A.?
Oh yes – Challenge Accepted!
If you don’t know what a CSA is – it is a great way to support local farms, pay up front for a season and get a box of produce once a week for 16 weeks. I LOVE SUMMER!
I started writing this at the beginning of summer. I am now 12 weeks into the CSA season and each week I get the same excited feeling like children do at Christmas, only I’m opening a box of produce and they are ready to devour wrapping paper.
Over the last 12 weeks, there have been strawberries, tomatoes of all kinds, peaches, radishes, a variety of peppers, tomatillos, melons, lettuces, beans, onions, shallots, garlic, zucchini, enough basil for a restaurant to use and so much more.
What gets me excited is when I find ingredients that I haven’t used a lot in cooking, or are very seasonal. In this case, that special ingredient was garlic scapes.
Garlic scapes are very seasonal in the Midwest – found at the beginning of the growing season only. They grow out of heads of garlic in the ground and if left to grow, will eventually flower. Garlic scapes taste a bit between a garlic clove and a shallot and can be used in the same manner as both – to add flavor to dishes, grilled by themselves to be a side dish, and in this case, made into a pesto for pasta night.
It just so happened that another prize in the produce box was zucchini, which became the alternative to the spaghetti noodles. Zoodles, as I called them (I know I’m not the first to coin that phrase). I love when I get to put gadgets and kitchenaid attachments to use, so this meal became even more fun with the use of the spirilizer.
The most time in this dish was spent on all the prep work and roasting the sweet potatoes. Once all that was done and the pesto made, everything came together quite quickly. Using the bacon fat in the pan to slightly cook the zoodles and then throwing all the pesto in to coat was quick and satisfying. Shave a little parmesan on top, grab a side glass of white wine and you have yourself a meal.
Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Scape Pesto
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 8 slices bacon
- 10-12 garlic scapes
- 1/3 cup fresh basil
- 1/3 cup toasted almonds
- 1/3 cup fresh shredded parmesan
- Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup + 1 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 425°. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and place on a sheet pan. Top with 1 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder and honey and toss to coat. Place sheet pan in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, or to desired doneness. Personally, I like roasting until caramelizing, a little crunch on the outside, but soft in the middle.
Prep all the veggies, herbs, cheese and nuts:
- In a small skillet over medium heat, place the almonds and toast, stirring and flipping often. Watch carefully, it will take approximately 7-10 minutes depending on your cooktop. The color will tell you – you want them browned slightly for the toasted flavor, but not burned.
- Spiralize the zucchini, cutting the zucchini to a manageable eating length as it is spirilized.
- Trim the garlic scapes by cutting them right below the bulb and small trim on the other end.
- Rinse the basil.
- Juice the lemon.
- Shred the parmesan cheese.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon for about 10 minutes total, turning after the first side is seared and then moving them around for even cook. Continue watching the bacon while making the pesto. Remove bacon and place on cutting board to cool slightly before cutting up. Take the skillet off of the heat, but leave all the bacon fat in the skillet.
For the Pesto – place the garlic scapes in a food processor and pulse off and on for about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Add the basil, almonds, lemon juice (half the juice to start), parmesan cheese, and white wine vinegar. Pulse till broken down. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil in portions and pulse until you recieve your desired consistency. Salt and pepper and taste.
At this point, you can determine if you need more acid and to achieve that, add more lemon juice. If not, you pesto is complete.
Place the bacon skillet back on medium heat. Add 1 Tbls olive oil to the bacon fat and heat over medium heat. When up to temp, add the zucchini noodles and sauté for 2-3 minutes, while swirling the pan often to move the zuchinni around. Add in the pesto and stir to coat all of the zucchini. Finish by adding in the chopped bacon and roasted sweet potatoes. Top with shaved parmesan cheese.
Happy Spiralizing & Creative Pesto’ing!
*Experimental Spoon Original