One thing that peppers bring to marinades and sauces is flavor in bulk. Not the obvious capsicum fire measured in Scoville units, but the myriad accessory flavors of the edible plant. Capsaicin may be dominant, but it’s still just one molecule among thousands in the pepper, which, like every vegetable, blends these bountiful compounds into a particular balance of bitter and sweet, its unique vegetal umami.
The scape, if allowed to grow naturally, would develop into the garlic flower. Farmers cut this serpentine floral stalk to force the plant to focus its energy on creating the garlic bulb. In other words, all hail the garlic scape, for by its sacrifice we are assured a richer final crop of garlic.
It’s a true win-win because the scape is a nearly divine vegetable in its own right. You won’t learn this from Cook’s Illustrated, which describes a “grassy garlic flavor”.
Now, I like the aroma of a freshly cut lawn as much as the next poor sod, but garlic scapes are a tad more audacious. And the garlic scape is an ideal stand-in for pepper flesh. Carolyn Cope, writing in Serious Eats, gets it: garlic scapes are “the crazy-bastard college buddy who never really embraced adulthood, the one you catch up with by phone once or twice a year.”
I’ve been experimenting with them as replacements for nightshade peppers in marinades, and bulgogi is a definite winner.
- 1 tablespoon Doenjang paste (This fermented soy paste is not to be confused with Gochujang, which is the same basic thing, but infused with red or green chili)
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon jaggery (or 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey)
- 2 tablespoon rice cooking wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic (approximately 2 tablespoon)
- 1 kiwi, peeled (or an Asian pear)
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 inch horseradish root
- 1-3 garlic scapes (precision is not critical here)
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper (I used green)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1Presumably you’re using a blender or a food processor. If you’re doing this by hand, kudos to you. Stay strong, and just keep on grinding.
2Meanwhile, back on Planet Appliance, put the ginger, garlic, garlic scapes, and the horseradish in your processor and pulse until smooth. Add the kiwi or asian pear, or even an apple if those are not available. Pulse again, adding liquid ingredients to facilitate optimal grind. If using a jaggery slug, put in a bowl and add liquid ingredients, pausing so the sugar can soften first.
3Add the remaining ingredients except for sesame seeds. Run processor until the blend is smooth.
4The resulting mixture will be a paste. Using a glass or a steel bowl, mix the meat you’ll be using—thinly sliced pork, chicken, and beef are all delicious—with a marinade and set in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours; overnight is best.
5If you’re going for tofu or tempeh, briefly marinate with an extra splash of soy sauce and sesame oil before dunking in the complete marinade.
6Grill or sauté in a very hot cast iron pan; larger cuts can be cooked over a grill. Serve with rice, slaw, and other Asian vegetables.
7If you don’t have scapes, substitute 2 medium leeks—using as much of the green as is still succulent—and 6 cloves garlic.