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The Handoff: Great Scapes Chicken Kebabs!

2010 June 24

by Sarah A. Maine

Garlic scapes are beguilingly beautiful and on first encounter completely bewildering.  They are the flower shoot of the garlic plant, which when harvested encourages the bulbs to grow plumper, so farmers and eaters both win!  They have a long smooth stem that ends in a calligraphic curve with the flower bud itself tapering to a fine point.  They are only available for about a month in the spring and then they are gone, leaving only looping memories behind.  Their flavor is mellower than regular garlic and it softens even more after cooking.  I have yet to encounter a garlic scape recipe in a cookbook – a gaping hole in the culinary canon as far as I am concerned.

Great Scapes Chicken Kebabs

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 12 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 garlic scapes (or 2 to 3 cloves garlic)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you want it very spicy!)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/8 pound pancetta
  • 4 Japanese salad turnips
  • 3 beets (medium sized)
  • 6 small onions (or 3 large onions
  • 8 10-inch skewers

Cooking Directions

  1. If possible, roast the beets ahead of time, otherwise roast them while you are preparing the other ingredients. Place the whole beets in a baking dish with 1/4 inch of water. Make sure to leave 1 inch of the stalk sticking out of the top of the beet, this keeps the yummy beet juices from leaking out during roasting. Place the pan in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (depending on the size of the beets you may want to increase cooking time). Don’t worry if the beets don’t cook all the way through, they will be well done after they are cooked on the skewers. When the roasting is finished, take the pan out and allow the beets to cool before peeling them and cutting the beets into 1 inch cubes.
  2. For the marinade, chop the garlic scapes and combine in a food processor with vinegar, oil, honey, and red pepper flakes. If you don’t have a food processor, combine the ingredients by hand – make sure the scapes are finely chopped. Divide the finished amount in half – one half will be used to marinade the chicken, reserve the other half to baste the skewers once they have been assembled and while they are roasting.
  3. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes, try to make the pieces as consistent as you can for even cooking. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl or dish with half of the marinade. Do this as far ahead of time as you can, the more time in the marinade the better.
  4. Cut the onions and turnips into pieces about the same size as the beets and chicken. Unroll the pancetta and slice it into pieces 1/4 inch thick (3 per skewer).
  5. Now you are ready to assemble the skewers. There is no science to it – just gather all of your ingredients together and put them on the skewers in any order you please – I tried to make them look pretty! Once your skewers are made up brush them with the marinade reserved from earlier.
  6. Place the skewers on the grill or under the broiler on a well oiled pan, 6 minutes on each side. Be sure to baste the skewers when you turn them over! If you have ingredients left over that don’t fit on the skewers, place them in a baking dish and cook under the broiler (also 6 minutes on each side).
  7. Eat and enjoy!

The beauty of kebabs is that they are infinitely variable and this recipe is no exception.  The key to the tastiness is in the marinade and in allowing ample time for the chicken to soak up the tangy, sweet, smoky flavors of the scapes, the balsamic vinegar, and the honey.  You can replace the chicken with another type of meat or with big juicy portobello mushrooms, the beets and turnips can be swapped for your vegetables of choice.  The only thing I would absolutely not change is the onions – in my kitchen there are no substitutes for those!! – Sarah