By Kerri Conan
Last weekend I got one of those gee-I-wonder-what-will-happen-if flashes. I was standing at the sink, snipping the tough ends from the bottoms of just-picked garlic scapes, the lily-like flowers that sprout up from hard-neck garlic as the plants start to form bulbs underground; there should be some in farmers markets for at least the next week or two.)
Anyway, the pile of these extremely fragrant green sticks is growing, and they’re weeping a little garlicky nectar from the cut ends—sort of like tears—and now I’m thinking surely there’s a way to save my precious darlings who never hurt anyone from the compost heap. Or at least delay their demise.
These little numbers are the size of old-fashioned waxed paper drinking straws and just about as fibrous. But when you gnaw on them a bit like sugar cane, you extract a sublime and surprisingly mild flavor, the sort of elixir that ought to be bottled—or frozen. So I throw them in a pot, cover them with cold water, and set them to boil. Only to see what might happen.
After 90 minutes of simmering they softened only a little, but the whole house smelled of mellow roasted garlic, and the cooking water had turned a pleasant greenish brown. I sprinkled some salt on a spoonful (waiting to salt the whole batch until it became time to use it) and declared the garlic stock yum: slightly grassy and complex, without the sharp edges of raw or even green garlic.
But not quite done. I popped a lid on the pot and refrigerated the whole thing overnight. The next morning I fished the stalks out with tongs, tasted again, and poured the stock into Ziploc bags for the freezer. I reckon a pound or so of scape shake made two quarts—enough for a couple nice soup bases or an unreal batch of mashed potatoes.