I had a blast at the farmers' market this past weekend. I mosied around, checked things out, and asked a lot of questions before I started shopping. Cherry Hill Farm had lovely baby zucchini, baby yellow squash, petite Yummy multi-colored sweet peppers, and gorgeous large broccoli florets. Sold. One vendor, tucked away and hidden from the market madness, offered only three things; hydroponic tomatoes, ( our only option for quite some time), curiously green rhubarb, and beautiful ropes of garlic scapes. I snapped a scape in two and tasted it. It had the essence of fresh garlic without the biting heat of raw garlic. I had to have them.
Garlic scapes are the flowering shoots from young hardneck garlic cloves. They push through the ground, curl toward the sun, and float through the air without effort. Garlic growers snip the shoots to focus the garlic's energy back into the bulbs for growth and development. For a short time, we get the scapes. Score. Our gain. Having the texture of young fresh green beans, scapes can be stir-fried, sauteed, or pureed into pesto.
Last night, I decided to grill them. In fact, I opted to grill our entire dinner using almost everything I bought from the market.
No recipes. Just food fun.
Earlier in the day, I marinated gifted Not For Sale pork tenderloin medallions in olive oil, crushed garlic, grated onion, fresh lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. I slid them into the refrigerator to soak up the flavors while Michael and I spent a very hot day at the pool.
After we cooled down over several glasses of wine, Michael fired the grill. I'm not allowed to light the grill anymore. My last brush with fire nearly burned down the house.
With the flames screaming hot, I tossed the tiny peppers, garlic scapes, and halved sugar-dusted lemons over the glowing coals to char, caralamelize, and soften. As the vegetables started to blister, I removed them from the heat and tossed them with Olivia Bella olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. For sweet acidity, I showered them with fresh squeezed juice from the chargrilled caramelized lemon halves and set them aside.
While waiting for the fire to die down, I blanched the broccoli florets in salted water for 3 minutes, dropped them into an ice water bath to cool, drained them in a colander, and patted them dry.
After pulling the pork tenderloin medallions from the refridgerator and slicing leftover chilled reggiano-laced polenta into polenta sticks, a much needed wine break followed. I needed to catch my breath..
After that, it went fast. Really fast.
I brushed the polenta sticks with olive oil and placed them onto the grill for a couple of minutes per side to brown with grill marks. After sliding them to side of the grill, I tossed the pork medallions over the hot coals and grilled them for about 4 minutes per side , or until cooked through, before pulling them off the heat to rest.
While the pork rested, I grilled the broccoli just until the tips of the florets charred, removed them, and doused them with garlic butter.
I stacked the polenta sticks, plated the pork medallions next to the stacks, and nestled the broccoli alongside both.
After tossing the charred baby peppers and garlic scapes with the lemon juice/olive oil dressing, I tumbled the "salad" over the polenta and grilled pork, ending with a shower of fresh parsley.
There was a lot going on. The broccoli was fantastic. Perfectly cooked with a bit of smoky char, it dripped with garlic butter. The caramelized peppers slid through the crunchy polenta stacks, adding subtle silky texture along with sweetened lemon acidity.
The garlic scapes were smoky and crisp. With mild garlic undertones, they had the mouthfeel of al dente green beans. Interesting. Dressed with lemon and olive oil, the scapes added bright depth to the grilled pork. Combined with fresh grassy parsley and acidic sweet lemon, the soft scapes suggested a flavor riff on gremolata. ( the classic lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and olive oil garnish used to awaken long braised meats.) Fascinating.
It was great fun to lounge on the deck and grill our entire meal. Trouble? Well, maybe.
One bite of the smoky caramelized candied pork fat swiped through puddled garlic butter made it worth every ounce of trouble.