Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of produce available at the indoor farmer’s market yesterday. I had gone in hopes of finding ramps, but instead discovered green garlic.
One of the first crops of the year, I was thrilled to get my hands on this leafy garlic stalk that looks like a cross between a scallion and a baby leek with the root still attached. In reality, the flavor is all garlic but is a bit more subtle and sweet than traditional garlic cloves. To use green garlic, remove the beard (the roots), trim the tough green tops (about 1 inch), and peel away any slimy pieces around the stalk.
But what to cook with this treasure? It’s true that green garlic can be used any place you’d use garlic cloves, but I wanted to make something that would highlight the unique flavor of this seasonal delight.
I considered a lot of options (garlic chicken, spinach-green garlic soup, salad, etc.), but in the end I decided it was silly to limit myself to just one green garlic dish, so I made two: pasta with green garlic, bacon and Spring vegetables and green garlic and potato soup, a twist on the classic potato-leek soup (or vichyssoise if served cold).
The pasta dish is basically a pan sauce with bacon, green garlic, mushrooms and spinach, and can be made in the time it takes to cook the noodles. At the end stir in parmesan cheese and a bit of the cooking liquid, and you’ve got yourself an amazingly fragrant and filling meal. Also, you can use any type of bite-sized pasta, in this instance I chose miniature farfalle.
The green garlic and potato soup is just as simple to prepare although it takes a bit longer. But it’s worth the wait for the soup’s thick, creamy texture.
In both recipes the green garlic flavor is subtle yet prominent in that it doesn’t overwhelm the palate, but you definitely know it’s there.
Pasta with Green Garlic, Bacon and Spring Vegetables - serves 2
4 ounces dried bite-sized pasta (i.e. mini farfalle, orecchiette, penne)
1 piece bacon, diced
3 tablespoons minced green garlic
4 shitake mushrooms, diced (discard stems)
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pasta cooking water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta following package instructions.
Begin making the sauce while waiting for the pasta water to boil. Set a saute pan over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon becomes crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon. Set aside.
Decrease the heat to low and add the minced green garlic to the pan with the bacon fat still in it. Sweat the garlic for 1 minute, then stir in the mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the spinach. Continue cooking over low heat until the spinach has wilted.
Once the pasta has been cooked to al dente, drain it but reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the vegetables, then stir in the parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoon cooking water. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Garnish with the bacon.
Green Garlic & Potato Soup - makes 5 cups
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces green garlic, trimmed and minced (about 1/2 cup minced)
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 1/2 cups (28 fl oz) low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk or soy milk
Gently heat the olive oil in a pot over low heat. Stir in the green garlic and sweat for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and sweat for 1 minute, then pour in the chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool slightly. Puree using an immersion blender or stand blender. Stir in 1 cup water and return the pot to the burner and gently heat on low. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and milk.