Those, my friends, are garlic scapes. And I you’ve never tried garlic scapes before, you’re totally missing out.
Scapes are the flowering stem of the hardneck garlic, which is harvested while still tender and before it has a chance to bloom (in Asian cuisine, they’re also called “garlic flowers”, as I learned from fellow blogger Denise when she posted a recipe for a delicious-looking garlic flower soup over at Quickies on the Dinner Table). The sharp flavour is intensely garlicky with a hint of chive, though it does lose much of its bite once cooked.
There are many things you can do with scapes, but my personal preference is to turn them into garlic scape pesto. It’s a sharper, greener take on traditional basil pesto that can be used to add a fresh garlicky zing to just about anything – I spoon it into soups, spread it on sandwiches, toss with cooked pasta, beat it into scrambled eggs, and (best of all) slather it onto pizza dough before adding on my favourite toppings. It freezes beautifully, too, so it’s easy to make an extra-large batch to tide you over until next spring.
Here, I’ve paired off the sharp bite of the scape pesto with earthy morel mushrooms, thin slices of Yukon Gold potato, and crisp shreds of prosciutto. It’s an intensely flavourful and satisfying pizza that makes the most of two of my favourite in-season ingredients. I bake it on the bottom rack of a very hot oven to mimic the effect of a brick oven, which gives the crust a pleasant crispness – it’s still nowhere near what you’d get with professional equipment, but since my backyard isn’t big enough to build a proper wood-burning pizza oven, this is still a decent compromise.
If you can’t find morels (and Lord knows, I certainly can’t find them a good chunk of the time), you can use just about any kind of wild mushroom you like, or even plain ol’ cremini. Just avoid using white button mushrooms, as they’re not earthy enough to stand up to everything else that’s on in this pizza.
Early Summer Pizza
1 lb pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh morel mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup Garlic Scape Pesto (recipe below)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
3 slices prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
Olive oil and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 500F. Lightly grease a 12″ pizza pan. On lightly floured surface, gently stretch out the dough into a 12″ circle, then slide into the prepared pan.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Parboil potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, add butter to a small saute pan set over medium-high heat, melt butter. When the butter begins to foam, add morels and saute for 2-3 minutes. Reserve a handful of the nicest ones, and roughly chop the remainder. Set aside.
Now, it’s time to assemble your pizza. Spread a thin layer of the pesto onto the prepared crust, then top with the chopped morels. Sprinkle with an even layer of the shredded mozzarella, then arrange the potato slices in an overlapping pattern over the entire surface. Finally, scatter the reserved whole morels and the chopped prosciutto overtop.
Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes on the bottom rack of preheated oven, or until crust is browned and toppings are bubbly.
8-9 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (~1 cup)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the garlic scapes and parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the scapes are finely chopped.
Pour in 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and continue processing until the mixture is smooth, adding more oil 2 tbsp at a time if needed to get the proper consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use.
You can also make handy-dandy pesto cubes by spooning the pesto into a clean ice cube tray. Place the tray in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until the cubes are frozen solid, then pop them out of the tray and into a zip-top bag. Return to freezer, to be used as needed anytime over the next 6-12 months.