A Tale of Garlic Scapes and Vegetarians

First share, first share! By week 10 I’ll have collards stacked neck-high in the fridge and be eying all leafy greens with trepidation, but right now — after a particularly long stretch of subsisting on takeout tacos — I’m thrilled to stock up and start cooking again.

Plus, we started off with one of my favorite things: Garlic scapes. Being a garlic freak, I love these, and they’re something I never encountered until I moved to NYC and started visiting farmer’s markets. For something so seasonal, they’re also remarkably durable: I’ve stashed them in my fridge for a month or two and they’ve held up fine.

This year I have a new wrinkle for my CSA cooking: My spouse turned vegetarian. 100% not-even-any-fish vegetarian.

It’s not a total shock, though let’s also keep in mind that before he met me his typical idea of “cooking dinner” was along the lines of “buy package of ground beef at supermarket, dump in frying pan, sizzle, eat.” But he’s always been an animal lover, and for the past few years it’s nagged at him to eat things that used to breathe. One day in March he snapped, declared “I’m done,” and hasn’t touched meat since.

In contrast, I’ve essentially been a flexitarian since before there was a word for it. I didn’t eat any red meat for about 15 years — basically from age 11 until I rediscovered bacon. (I blame Mario Batali. I know three ex-vegetarians converted by Babbo.) I never re-developed a taste for beef (or veal, lamb or other “red meats”), but I cook with cured pork fairly regularly now, and rely very heavily on seafood in my culinary endeavors. I consider anchovy a basic food group.

So this transition has been … culinarily challenging. My spouse is being a good sport about it, and says I shouldn’t change my cooking habits — if he doesn’t want what I’m making, he’ll forage something else from the fridge. But I’d rather cook for two. So I’m steering toward for dishes that can be adapted for both veggie and non-veggie renditions.

I knew I wanted to use up my week #1 share snow peas right away — they don’t keep long. I decided to make them my usual way: A quick, 60-second dip in boiling water, then a drizzle of melted butter and a salt-and-pepper sprinkle. (I melted the butter in a pan with some chopped garlic scapes, to add an extra garlicky hit.)

But what to serve with it? It needed a “main” pairing of some sort, most likely protein.

I thought about trying to do something with eggplant. Those thoughts went out the window the moment I walked into my local market and spotted something I haven’t seen there before: Halibut cheeks.

Halibut cheeks are one of my very favorite things about the Pacific Northwest. I typically go to Seattle once or twice a year, and one of my first stops is always Pike Place Market, to grab a bag of cheeks to cook at my friends’ house. I once flew back with several pounds, and an ice block, stuffed in my carry-on bag.

I’ve never seen them for sale here. So when I spotted them, I pounced.

Which left me with the dilemma: What could I put on David’s plate with the snow peas? I had some frozen dinner rolls (from Alexia, they’re a heat-and-serve godsend), but not much else.

I went for what I suspect will be a common if uncreative solution: Cheese plate. To ensure a steady supply, I’ve signed up for the Saxelby cheese share.

For my plate, I pan-fried the salted-and-peppered halibut cheeks in olive oil. After a few minutes, I added some leftover white wine to the pan, then flipped the cheeks and sprinkled them with chopped garlic scapes and rosemary. After taking them out of the pan, I melted a pat of butter, then poured it over the fishies.

Dinner in 30 minutes. And tomorrow, I tackle the chard, before it settles and establishes territory in the veggie drawer. -Stacy Cowley


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