Leek scapes, the flower stalks produced by leek plants in June, are a once-a-year treat. Resembling asparagus in flavor, they are versatile and delicious. Here are three ideas for cooking with scapes, plus a recipe for braised veal.
While down in the garden checking on the peas, which are enormous, I saw strange stalks rising from the leek bed. Like all of my other onion-y plants (chives, garlic chives, and green onions), leeks throw up a scape with a flower on top. After they get through that phase, they go back to making the part of the plant we're interested in.
However, I wondered about these scapes, which looked solid and meaty. I broke one off the plant; it snapped easily, like asparagus. I was intrigued, so I picked a bundle of them and headed back to the house.
First, I sliced them on the diagonal, and sauteed with butter and olive oil. They were quite close to asparagus in both texture and flavor when cooked this way, which was surprising. Where did the onion go?
Next, I took some of the sauteed scapes and made a pizza, with Vermont ham, homemade Ricotta flavored with Spanish smoked paprika, Kalamata olives and my own Hawk's Mountain cheese, on a quick sourdough crust. Again, this was terrific:
All of this was so successful, that the next day I picked the rest of the scapes and braised some of our local veal, this time a bone-in chuck roast. I wrapped the scapes, whole, around the outside of the braising dish; they became deep green and extremely tender in the braise.
Braised Veal with Leek Scapes
2 1/4 lb veal chuck roast, bone-in (this should be about 2 1/2" thick)
3 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
2 large shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
Handful of dried lobster mushrooms (or other wild mushroom), rehydrated in hot water and sliced
2 T butter
1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
20 leek scapes, 8" to 10" long, tips removed
1 1/2 cups excellent white wine, with good fruit (try LaCrescent from Vermont's Lincoln Peak)
Several Fresh sage leaves
Several springs of fresh thyme
one sprig of fresh Greek Oregano
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper
1. In a covered, enameled braising dish, brown the roast in the olive oil, turning when one side is brown. Do not turn too frequently. This will take 15 minutes.
Then, make cuts into the meat with a paring knife and insert garlic slivers every 2 inches on the surface. Add the chopped shallots to the dish.
2. Sautee the sliced mushrooms in the butter for 5 minutes, and then add both butter and mushrooms to the braising dish. Add the sliced parsnips; distribute around the outside of the roast.
3. Wrap the leek scapes around the outside of the roast, then distribute the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the white wine, cover the dish, and place in 400F oven for approximately 1 1/4 hours. (Turn the meat after 30 minutes. Check for tenderness in the veal after 1 hour; continue cooking until fork-tender).
5. Remove meat and vegetables to platter; reduce and thicken the sauce; adjust seasoning.
Slice and serve with vegetables separately presented. Enjoy!