Baby Summer Squash, Two Ways

Summer Squash and Garlic Scapes

Every year Stewart and I eagerly await the arrival of baby squash. Picked before maturity, these little guys have a crunch and sweetness that is unparalleled in their adult counterparts. I like them best cooked quickly and simply – I’d hate for any dish to overshadow the delicate taste and texture we look forward too all year long. Here are two ideas for preparing them:

Garlic Scape Pesto and Pan Seared Summer Squash

This is a garlic scape pesto with pan-seared balsamic squash. Yes. You read that right. Garlic scape. I ate something that came from the garlic plant! It’s a miracle!

Garlic scapes emerge from hardneck varieties of garlic. They are to the garlic bulb what chives are to the onion bulb. They have a definite garlic flavor, but instead of the harsh, almost acidic aftertaste of the bulb, you get a sweeter, greener flavor. They’re picked every June for two reasons – they’re tasty, and removing them drives more energy into the bulb for a better garlic harvest later.

There are many things you can do with garlic scapes. You can toss them into your tofu scramble, add them in your stir fries, mix them into mashed potatoes… but perhaps everyone’s favorite preparation is pesto. Many recipes call for raw scapes for making pesto, but given my garlic issues, I decided to saute them first to make sure they were as mild as possible before I ate them.

Garlic Scape PestoGarlic Scape Pesto
Serves Two

1/2 lb Fresh Garlic Scapes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Large Pinch Salt
Black Pepper
1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (or other nut)
2 Tbs Oil
Lemon Juice, to taste

Chop the scapes into 1 inch long pieces. Add 2 tbs oil to a heated pan and add the scapes. Add salt, pepper, and pine nuts and saute for a few minutes over medium high heat until the scapes begin to soften and the nuts turn golden brown. Add immediately to the work bowl of a food processor and add remaining oil. Blend well until a smooth paste forms. Taste and add more salt or some lemon juice to brighten. This will coat 1/2 lb. of pasta.

Pan-Seared Balsamic Baby Squash
Makes 12 pieces

6 Fresh Summer Squash, 4-5″ long and 1″ in diameter
Olive Oil
1 Pinch Salt
Balsamic Vinegar

Gently wash and halve squash. Heat a small amount of oil, just enough to make your pan shiny, over high heat. When very hot, add squash cut side down. Press on each one to help sear. Sprinkle with salt. After several minutes (do not move squash), the squash should be golden brown on their cut side. When all squash are browned toss a bit to coat in remaining oil and salt in the pan (add a bit if needed). Splash with a small amount of vinegar (1/2 tsp or so, more if you like). It will bubble up and reduce, lightly coating the squash. Serve immediately.

Baby Summer Squash Pasta

And for good measure, remember that you don’t need a recipe or fancy garlic scapes to make these little squashes shine. Here I tossed similarly cooked squash with into pasta with sundried tomatoes and spinach wilted in a hot pan with some lemon juice. Add whatever italian herbs you have on hand, season with salt and balsamic vinegar, and you have an easy but delightful meal without much fuss.


  1. marianne

    That is just beautiful, I want to come eat at your house, I know it’s all delicious, your presentation has me drooling, talk about eye candy! (of the best kind)

  2. Suganya

    These look great. But I have a question. Can I make them with garlic chives if i don’t have garlic scapes? And can i prepare the squash a day ahead and use for next day’s dinner? do they retain their freshness?

  3. Alex

    Our blender didn’t have the HP to puree the scapes we got from our farmshare, but maybe if we sauteed them first to soften them, though…

  4. Lolo

    Thanks everyone!

    Suganya – While I’m sure garlic chives are lovely, I don’t think they’d be as appropriate for making pesto as scapes. Scapes are a bit “meatier” and create a nice firm texture.

    The squash are best prepared immediately before eating, otherwise they won’t retain their crunch.

  5. ashley

    yumm. i’ve never seen or heard of garlic scape before. and i really want to try the pan-seared balsamic baby squash – seems simple and delicious!

  6. Robin

    Sorry to bug you with another garlic Q– but would it be possible to use garlic (in a smaller amount) in this pesto? Or do you think it would transform the taste too wildly? I can’t find garlic scrapes anywhere and do not have any garlic in my garden.

    *Your blog is deliciously beautiful!

  7. Lolo

    Hi Robin!

    The bad news is you just can’t make garlic scape pesto without garlic scapes. The good news is, there are endless recipes for all sorts of pestos on the internet. I’m sure you can find a tasty one with the ingredients that you do have.

    Perhaps you could try my pistachio arugula pesto, or find a different recipe on the web. Good luck!

  8. Wendy

    Oh my. Baby squashes. Absolutely adorable! If one can call a vegetable “adorable”. Wishing I’d planted some this year. Will hold that thought till next year.

  9. almost vegetarian

    That looks incredibly delicious. The pan-seared balsamic trick works so nicley for so many vegetables, most notably red peppers. But I have never tried it with squash. Never, that is, until this weekend because I now plan to pick up some squash at the farmer’s market. I can’t wait.


  10. Rachael

    I love scapes! Of course, I love all things garlic, but scapes are the best. I have to say, I’ve never tried pesto with them…I steam them, stirfry them, bake them, etc. I actually dedicated a post on my blog to the wonders of scapes…yes, i’m a dork. oh well. glad you found a garlicky thing you like!

  11. Nadia

    Beautiful! Looks amazing!

    Just out of curiosity what type of digital camera do you use? Your photos look so crisp and clear. I am in need of a new one….

  12. bazu

    I love these ideas- summer squash is one of those veggies I like, but have to try really hard to make them into something I could *love*. These ought to do the trick.

  13. kelley

    i did the baby squashes last night. it set off the smoke detector (weird), but was very tasty! from my husband: “is this squash?”
    “it’s good!”

    i actually liked the lukewarm leftovers just as well. not crunchy, but really flavorful.

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  18. Babette

    I tried your recipe for garlic scape pesto last week and I have to say it is quite delicious. Thank you! Too bad the season is over now!

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