Garlic Scapes, Cosmic Balance and a Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet

pan fried sea bass with garlic scapes and sauce gribiche

Now that we’re done with our annual yogic vigil of the summer solstice and our cosmic karma has been rebalanced, it’s time for us to concede that we’re not really very good food bloggers. Not that any remaining readers won’t have noticed this of late, given the infrequency of our postings, but hey, karmic balance is a lengthy and troublesome business don’t you know. However, I refer not to our lack of new content as much as to the fact that until comparatively recently we hadn’t tried garlic scapes.

A few years back there was an explosion in the popularity of semi-wild springtime comestibles like morels, wild garlic, nettles and fiddlehead ferns, as if they had never existed before and if you weren’t blogging about how amazing this annual foragable bounty was then you were either terribly gauche or just plain old-fashioned. To our credit, we did do our best to surf this trend and did at least one post featuring morels, even going so far as to dig up a clump of wild garlic we found growing in our local NYC park and transplant it in a pot on our balcony, but it never really caught on with us.

In truth this is probably because we live in Brooklyn where the closest things to wild are the noises coming out of the adjacent tenement building on a warm summer night, so that all these wild spring greens are only available from the farmer’s market, which somehow defeats the object.

pan fried sea bass with garlic scapes and sauce gribiche

Unknowingly, last fall, just like the previous year we planted regular garlic from the grocery store in our small weedy plot out back and thought nothing more of it. With the mild weather, it grew throughout the winter, maturing much earlier than we had expected, so that during early May we witnessed a peculiar phenomenon. Out of each of our plants sprouted a thin, fibrous tendril, like an elongated stick insect or a witches’ finger, that shot skyward for about a foot, seemingly overnight. Realizing that we no longer needed to choose between getting fleeced by gentlemen farmers from the Hudson Valley for a pound of chewy scapes or buying groceries for the week, we harvested and sauted them as an accompaniment to a pan-fried fillet of sea bass and some creamy polenta.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of a garlic scape yet, they are (almost) worth the hype. They are like a garlicky green bean, with all the crunch of the whole bean and a delightfully mild yet pungent aroma of garlic. Most recipes call for making them into a pesto, which sounds perfectly good too, but favors aroma over texture. Our recipe has both. We have since harvested our fully grown garlic bulbs and only learned now that they are probably larger because we harvested the scapes which would otherwise have stolen vital plumpness and invested it into producing reproductive flowers. Happily, garlic is a peculiar, self-cloning creature that requires no pollination to reproduce, so all we need to do is save the largest of this year’s crop for planting in the fall and we should get even larger bulbs and more scapes next year. How’s that for cosmic balance?

Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet with Garlic Scapes and Sauce Gribich (feeds 2)


  • 1lb sea bass, filleted, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2lb garlic scapes, chopped into 4-6 inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil for frying

For the sauce gribiche:

  • 3oz cornichons, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup regular full-fat mayonnaise
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 smallish or 1 large hardboiled eggs, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chives, chervil, and/or tarragon
  • a couple of squeezes of lemon juice or splashes of red wine vinegar to taste
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sprinkle sea bass fillet with salt and pepper and flour lightly (or cornstarch)
  2. Heat oiled pan to medium high and cook fillets skin side down for 3 minutes, or until crispy and golden, flip gently and cook for another minute or so, until just cooked through.
  3. Reserve fillets in a barely warm oven, and seasoning the garlic scapes with salt and pepper, saute in same pan/oil on a slightly lower heat, medium-ish, until wilted but still nice and crunchy.
  4. Remove from pan and serve with sea bass and sauce gribiche – see below.

For the sauce gribiche:

  1. Combine mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice with a whisk.
  2. Add to this chopped egg, parsley, shallot, fine herbs, capers and cornichons, and stir well.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with sea bass and garlic scapes, or as is common for this classic French sauce with asparagus, another springtime favorite.

8 thoughts on “Garlic Scapes, Cosmic Balance and a Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet

  1. MMMmmm. Delish guys. They are indeed all over the green market but pricy. Growing it yourself is a far better notion. When I had a garden it was waaaay upstate and garlic didn’t do well. Now that I am compelled to use containers (toxic soil and coop boards) … just not enough room for everything I want (do grow chervil though!). Kudos on the gorgeous crust on the fish. A great dish.

  2. Wow! Such a gorgeous dish. This is definitely up my alley. Your plating and crispy skin fish, and pairing with polenta, all brilliant!
    I do need to seek out the garlic scapes at the farmers market. Or maybe grow for myself, I have lots of society garlic in the garden for the pungent purple flowers…there’s room for more.

  3. Scapes may be trendy, but at least you didn’t write about ramps! 😛 I sometimes wonder if there will be any ramps left in a few years, what with everyone and their brother foraging them to death.

    I somehow missed out on garlic scapes this year, but you make it sound as if it’s pretty simple to grow them… maybe I’ll have to give that a try! I like that you cook them intact here and treat them as a vegetable rather than just a flavor component.

  4. Hi guys,
    I have these crazy scapes that are 6 feet tall growing in my garden! I used them for pesto, and now they are on my counter , blooming in a “flower” arrangement!
    Stay cool. Stacey

  5. Hmmm…I think I could just eat the sauce gribiche with some nice dippers. Of course the sea bass is great, too. We mostly have Rock fish here in Maryland and it can be used in so many ways. I’ve probably seen the scapes but hadn’t really researched what you could do with them. I’ll be checking them out…

  6. So beautiful, and you grew your own scapes! Sea bass is my favourite fish. I buy my garlic scapes from a Chinese grocery store and would adore to use them w sea bass. How is the baby? I just became a mum and have no time to blog….yet! X shayma

    1. @Shayma: Congratulations! That’s awesome, but it does change one’s priorities a bit, doesn’t it? Our son has just turned two, and you can see that since he’s been on the scene we’ve managed about a post/month. The first year was really tough to adjust to having a kid, but they change so much in the second year and become a lot easier to deal with, especially since you really start getting proper sleep again. Best of luck with everything. We’ll stop by and check-in soon.

  7. I had Toum for the first time about 25 years ago in a Lebanese restaurant in St. Paul, MN. I would also pcsrhaue small containers of Toum from a small Mexican-Lebanese grocery store several miles from the restaurant. I got hooked and turned into a Toum junkie. Unfortunately, my wife was in the early stages of her first pregnancy and she couldn’t stand to be within 25 feet of me after I had been eating the stuff or she’d experience severe morning sickness regardless of the time of day. We eventually moved too far away to get back to either establishment on a regular basis, which probably saved our marriage and allowed for additional children. I’ve found recipes for Toum previously and I succeeded in making it once or twice in a blender. More recent attempts to make it, however, have been dismal failures. I had Toum again in November at a South Bend, Indiana restaurant following a Notre Dame football game. It was as good as I remembered it and it rekindled my determination to make it at home. I tried my old method again with the same disappointing results. I found your recipe on this site and gave it a whirl. Wonderful! I think you touched upon a very important factor in your blog for those struggling with making Toum: Size matters. In my failed efforts I had tried to make proportionately smaller batches and ended up with lumpy, separated liquid. Larger amounts made in a food processor is the key to success. I, along with my menopausal wife and grown children, thank you!

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