Garlic Spears with Tofu on Polenta

Recently I have seen something new in the produce section at local markets, Garlic Spears. They look so interesting, just like little green spears or like arrows, and they have an attractive and informative instruction sheet wrapped neatly around them. I couldn’t resist. On impulse I placed a bundle in my basket and brought them home. I was eating by myself that evening and I thought it would be fun to taste something new.

When I got home, I studied the label and looked them up on the Internet. I learned that Garlic Spears are the tender edible stem and bud of the flowering tops of elephant garlic. The label suggested a simple preparation and I followed the directions. I washed a few of the little spears, trimmed the ends and sauteed them lightly for about 5 minutes as suggested, adding only a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.

The result was a side dish with a slightly unusual garlic flavor. To me the flavor was a little strong on its own. The spears also seemed a little too crisp for my taste. I think I would prefer them mixed into other dishes or cooked a bit longer. Still they were good. I splashed my serving of Garlic Spears with a bit of balsamic vinegar. The directions suggest lemon juice and butter. Either adds another note of interest to the flavor of this simple and unusual side dish.

After my dinner for one, I still had quite a few garlic spears left over. I did an Internet search for another recipe to try and found one that appealed to me at The Garlic Store. This recipe for "Sauteed Garlic Spears" calls for a sauté of chopped and seasoned garlic spears with tofu and a sprinkling of lemon juice, served over Polenta. It turned out to be delicious and was eaten eagerly by my whole family.

Basic Italian Polenta
(recipe adapted from the package of Bob’s Red Mill brand Corn Grits also known as Polenta)

6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn grits
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup Parmesan (or other cheese), grated
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the corn grits in a thin stream stirring until well mixed. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick.

Remove from heat. Stir the cheese, butter and pepper into the corn grits until combined.

Pour the mixture into oiled loaf pans, or other molds. Let sit for at least ten minutes.

When ready to serve, unmold Polenta and cut into thick slices.

Serve warm, topped with Sauteed Garlic Spears (or other stir-fried vegetables), tomato sauce and grated cheese, sauteed mushrooms or other topping of your choice.

Sauteed Garlic Spears with Tofu
(adapted from a recipe at

1 bunch garlic spears, abut 18 to 20 spears
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained
½ lemon
Cooked corn grits or polenta

Slice the tofu into ½ inch thick slices.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced tofu and cook until browned. Turn and repeat on the other side. Remove the tofu and set aside. When cool, cut tofu into strips or cubes.

Slice garlic spears in half, lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in the skillet. Add the garlic spears and red pepper flakes. Saute 3 to 5 minutes stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add reserved tofu and continue stirring until heated through.

Remove pan from heat and squeeze the juice from the lemon half across the garlic spears, tossing to coat.

Serve Sauteed Garlic Spears with Tofu over prepared Polenta.

Note: If you can’t find Garlic Spears I think this recipe would work equally well with asparagus, or even broccoli, if you adjust the cooking time and maybe add a clove or two of minced garlic to the recipe.


Anonymous said...

I've only seen them referred to as 'garlic scapes' -- but yes, they're pungent. I just snipped mine off, otherwise the bulbs won't form. This year, all the Missouri garlic bulbs are expected to be tiny. Another hard year for farmers ...

Nic said...

Interesting dishes! I've not had garlic spears before.

grace said...

what a great dish! i particularly like the polenta--i'm a new fan. i'm glad that your impulse buy turned out so well!

Anonymous said...

This is an introduction to garlic spears for me. I imagine I could also do this with grits cakes to make the dish Southern. Glad it worked out, and the asparagus also sounded like a good version.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of or seen these. They are so unusual. It looks very appetizing.

Lisa said...

Alanna - I have seen a number of references to garlic scapes but they always seem to be curly while the garlic spears I have seen in the market here are straight. Maybe they are just trimmed or cultivated a little differently. The references to garlic spears that I have found seem to be in the Portland area.

I'm sorry to hear that it is a hard year for Missouri farmers!

Nicisme - It is always fun to try something new!

Grace - I enjoy polenta, especially soft and warm as it is served with this dish.

Kim - You could definitely do this with grits cakes. I think it's mostly a matter of terminology. It is always interesting to see people who might turn their nose up at "grits" thoroughly enjoy a taste of "polenta."

Noble Pig - Thanks! I'm glad you stopped by!

Stef said...

How fun! I always love discovering new things at the market. I've never seen garlic spears. They look fantastic!

Anonymous said...

These are so good! This year I'm pickling some (to use in Bloody Mary's!)...