Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Linguine with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape-Tomato Pesto

Another Tuesday, another trip to the Copley farmers' market! Over the last couple weeks, I've noticed an abundance of garlic scapes, both at the markets and in the food blogosphere, so I finally grabbed some. Scapes are immature flowering stalks found on some plants, and garlic growers remove them to help the bulb's growth. Then, the scapes are sold separately. Some people like to add them to stir fries or make them into pesto. I decided on pesto.

Since I'm relatively new to the kitchen, I'm trying to develop my palate. When trying new foods, I like to close my eyes and really try to internalize the taste. If I ever find myself on Hell's Kitchen, I'll be well prepared! The closed eyes palate challenge seems to make an appearance every season.

The thick end of a garlic scape tastes like a garlicky green bean, while the thin, grassy end tastes like, well, grass.

I had a couple tomatoes left over from last week's trip to the market, and I also had some Parmesan lying around, so I decided to make a pesto out of scapes, tomato, cheese, and olive oil. Garlic and tomato are always a good pair, so I figured it'd work out.

I chopped up 10 scapes, which came out to about 3/4 of a cup.

Then, I chopped up one medium tomato, which yielded about 1 1/2 cups.

I don't know much about making pesto - in fact, this was probably my first time - so I just went with the 2:1 tomato:scape ratio and hoped for the best. I also added in about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan plus salt and pepper to taste.

I don't think I've introduced my kitty Sierra to you yet. She was hanging out on the kitchen windowsill enjoying the sunlight while I was making the pesto...

 ...until the blender started. Then, she jumped down and ran away after uttering an offended "mrow!" Blending the pesto took awhile; my blender seems to get stuck a lot. I added in about 1/4 cup of olive oil while blending. The result was rather disappointing: it tasted fine, but it looked pretty unappetizing.

I threw it in the fridge for the time being while I figured out the rest of the meal.

I also got some pattypan squash at the market, although I don't usually like squash. I'm trying to broaden my horizons, and these bright yellow scalloped squashes looked so cute, I figured I'd give them a try. I planned to sautee them and toss them with pasta, and then top it all with the pesto.

I sliced one of them up, and the scalloped slices looked so pretty that I really wanted to like them.

But the buttery flavor had an overwhelming mushroomy earthiness that I just didn't like, and it grew stronger with the aftertaste. I shoveled the slices into tupperware and threw it in the fridge, hoping I could pawn it off on Joel before it goes bad. While it's likely that it'd taste better sauteed, which was my original plan, I was already feeling iffy about the success of the pesto, so I didn't want to throw in two shaky factors.

After ditching the squash, I broke out the swiss chard - another vegetable that I've never cooked or eaten. First observation: it's beautiful! Look at those colors! The end of the bunch looks like a rainbow of celery!

The stalk tasted like earthy celery and the leaf was similar to spinach but with an uncomfortable aftertaste. Once sauteed, This was the best part of the meal! I just ripped the leaves off and sauteed them very quickly with olive oil and salt while the smoke detector squealed in the background. (I can't wait to get out of this apartment. I can't sautee anything without setting off the smoke detector.)

I had some whole wheat flaxseed linguine from Nella Pasta in the freezer, so I cooked it up and mixed in the sauteed swiss chard. I ended up heating up the pesto: it just seemed more sauce-like than pesto-like, so it seemed weird to serve it cold. I was wary of how it would taste, and it still looked pretty gross, but once it was mixed with the pasta and chard, it actually tasted pretty decent.

I'm not overly enthusiastic about how this meal turned out, but I'd definitely get swiss chard again. Next time I'd like to find a way to use the stalks, not just the leaves. As for pesto, I have some reading to do because I clearly don't know how to make it properly. I guess the ugliness is from the tomatoes; it'd look more like a pesto if it were green.

Is it a faux pas to put tomatoes in pesto, or is there a proper way of doing it? And what do you do with the stalks of your swiss chard? And how can I prepare my squash in a way that I might actually like?


  1. My family are big 'chard eaters and we have always just sauteed the full leaves and stems with just the ends removed with olive oil and garlic. We actually treat them similarly to broccoli rabe-only we add a lot of crushed red pepper to rabe :-). I LOVE your idea of adding tomato to the pesto-maybe removing the seeds of the tomato and drying them a bit would take out some of the "sauce" quality? I can't say I've ever done it either though...
    And yay for Nella Pasta! DELICIOUS!

  2. I looove broccoli rabe with crushed red pepper! (Or, even better, a little sprinkle of ghost chili sea salt!) Next time, I'll try keeping the stems on the chard. They did taste good when I tried them raw, but since I was tossing the chard with pasta I figured the leaves alone would work better this time. I'm going to have to play around with pesto for awhile and figure the tomato thing out, because I really love tomatoes!

  3. You might want to try a sun-dried tomato pesto. There are several recipes for it that you can find via google. It's good stuff. This is my first visit to your blog and I've spent some time reading your earlier posts. I love the food you prepare and will be back often to see what else you've been conjuring up. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  4. Hi Mary, thanks for stopping by! I'm a big fan of sun-dried tomatoes, so I'll definitely give that a try. Yum!

  5. Pistou is a variation on pesto made with tomatoes instead of basil. May not have the best color, but it sure tastes delicious!


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