Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garlic-Pepper Shrimp over Roasted Garlic-Goat Cheese-Tomato Sauce

The third and last of my garlic experiments. As always, comments welcome.


2 lb. shrimp
4 cloves of grated garlic
1 T. black pepper
2 T. cognac
1 t. salt
2 t lemon juice
1/2 t. red chili flakes

Mix ingredients in Ziploc bag, shake and refrigerate overnight.

Tomato Sauce

2 T. olive oil
28 oz. can of whole tomatoes drained of juice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
6 oz. goat cheese
6 cloves roasted garlic

12 oz. black squid ink pasta
2 T. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel outer skin of head of garlic and cut off 1/2 inch off the top to expose individual cloves. Drizzle cloves with olive oil and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 35 minutes or until soft.

Saute onion in 2 T. olive oil until transparent. Add tomatoes and roasted garlic. Crush the tomatoes in the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until the consistency of oatmeal. Melt goat cheese into sauce. Mix in black pasta.

While goat cheese is melting. Saute shrimp in olive oil. Serve pasta topped with shrimp and chopped parsley.

Labels: , , ,

Crabby Garlic Cheese Bread

Here's another of my experiments. Improvements welcome.

One loaf of ciabatta, cut in half horizontally and then into slices
one stick softened butter
6 cloves of minced garlic
1 t. salt
1/2 lb fresh crab
1/4 c. mozzarella
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 t. Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 c. mozzarella cheese to top

Blend butter, garlic and salt. Top ciabatta halves with garlic butter and place under broiler until lightly browned

Combine all other ingredients. Top lightly-toasted bread with crab mix and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place under broiler again for 3-5 minutes, until top is melted and bubbly.

Labels: , , ,

Crab Cakes on Coleslaw Drizzled with Roasted Garlic-Chipotle Catsup

This is one of the recipes I entered into the Gilroy Garlic Cook-Off. I wasn't a finalist but feel free to try it and recommend changes.

Crab Cakes

1 lb. lump crab
1 c. ground popcorn
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 t. Old Bay Seasoning
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce
1 large egg
1 T. olive oil

Pop corn with 2 cloves of garlic. After popping, grate one clove of garlic over popcorn. Grind popcorn into course crumbs in food processor using steel blade.

Mix all ingredients gently. Form into patties and refrigerate for one hour. Heat olive oil, saute crab cakes for 4-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Place on coleslaw and drizzle with catsup.


6 c. cole slaw mix
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 t. celery salt
1 T. cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 T. Dijon Mustard
1 t. Whole grain mustard
1/4 c. blue cheese

Roasted Garlic-Chipotle Catsup

4 cloves roasted garlic
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (not drained)
14.5 oz. of whole tomatoes in juice, drained.
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel outer skin of head of garlic and cut off 1/2 inch off the top to expose individual cloves. Drizzle cloves with olive oil and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 35 minutes or until soft.

Bring ingredients to a boil and then simmer over low heat until concentrated. Cool then blend in food processor.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Seed Savers Convention

I went to the Seed Savers’ Annual Conference in Decorah, Iowa in 2009. (The picture above was taken in the Seed Savers' shop.) The conference which attracts a bevy of heirloom seed preservers and aficionados, is a mellow, midwestern affair where meals are eaten on bales of hay and people really describe German Extra Hardy garlic as “pretty dang hardy.” Garlic grower, Joel Girardin, known as the “Grandfather of Minnesota Garlic” gave an introduction to growing garlic with the following tip for garlic sellers. At the market, he put a sign next to his Georgian Fire bulbs that said, “Good for Salsa.” He sold out and told us, “if you want to sell a lot of garlic, just write ‘good for salsa’ because its all good for salsa!”

Mike McGrath, host of the radio show You Bet Your Garden, offered the following advice for gardeners who asked what do after they planted their garlic cloves in the ground and covered them with straw or mulch. “Go outside and have a beer. There’s nothing you can do for nine months.” (Turns out this is not entirely true as I learned, alas, the hard way. I planted 65 garlic cloves but didn’t sufficiently mulch and water them or trim the scapes in time. As I harvested my bounty, every one of my cloves emerged as a small misshapen marble. I had promised that none of my neighbors would need to purchase garlic this year. Maybe next year!)

Biologist Jeff Nekola, a Seed Savers advisor, grew and documented each of the garlic varieties in the Seed Saver’s collection and his Heirloom Garlic Archive gives the backstories, both fascinating and mundane, of different varieties. For example Russian Salvation was given to Helen Shultz’s grandfather in gratitude for the refuge he gave to a Russian sailor who jumped ship in British Columbia; Mom’s Oklahoma Rocambole was grown by Darrell Merrell's mother for 25-30 years in Tulsa; Marino was given to Grace Reynolds by a Mr. Marino; Siberian was obtained by fishermen bartering with peasant farmers; Tajikistan comes from “a friend of Brendan Flanagan’s who seems to recall Brendan having given it to him.” And Music isn’t named for its beauty; it’s named for Al Music, a Canadian garlic grower.

Labels: , , , ,

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

The country’s second largest garlic festival is the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York. The New York festival features a wide array of garlic varieties unlike Gilroy which spotlights only California White Garlic. I went to the second day of the festival but next year, I’ll go on the first day because on the second day, many of the exhibitors are hung-over from their annual first night get-together. Freud, not a big fan of American culture, would have hated the festival. The father of psychoanalysis once told a patient, “You Americans are like this. Garlic’s good. Chocolate’s good. Let’s put a little garlic on chocolate and eat it.” A Hudson Valley festival favorite is local chocolatier Oliver Kita’s luscious Garlic Truffles. Kita also whips up Roasted Garlic Caramels for Halloween.

Labels: , , , ,

Garlic Smuggling

Over the past twenty years, the hippy-esque kibbutz Neot Semadar has coaxed a surprisingly green oasis out of Israel’s dusty, brown Negev desert. While touring the kibbutz, I mentioned to my guide Coby, one of the kibbutz founders and tender of the community’s vegetable garden, that I was working on a history of garlic. He immediately bounded over to his truck and pulled out two huge, rose-tinted heads of garlic that he had just harvested. “Would you like these?” “Oh my God, yes.” They were spectacular.

When I landed at JFK after an exhausting flight from Tel Aviv, I had one goal -- to evade the airport’s legendary Beagle Brigade. The US Customs and Border Control has trained beagles to scout out food, plants, and fellow animals for decades. Beagles were recruited as federal agents because they have an acute sense of smell and they’re so cute that they don’t intimidate passengers. As a result, contraband-bearing travelers are tempted to cozy up to the adorable pups, dressed in their bright green vests, and before they know it, they’ve been busted by Snoopy.

I heard the beagle before I saw her. Quickly, I turned around. She was three feet away and headed right for me. I tried to hide my nervousness, but my heart was racing and beads of sweat exploded across my brow. My eyes darted around the carousel nervously. (I’d be a lousy terrorist.) Slowly, so as not to attract attention, I headed for the other side of the carousel, weaving between my fellow passengers and grateful, for the first time, that the flight from Tel Aviv had been full. Deputy Dog and her handler followed, stopping to check on other people, but I knew she would reach me in seconds. In a flash, I dropped my carry-on on the conveyor belt. The beagle arrived just as the garlic glided away. I picked up my suitcase and headed back to the other side of the carousel to collect my contraband-containing bag. When the customs official scanned my form and ushered me on, a smile broke out across my face. Victory and garlic were mine.

Labels: , , ,

Gilroy on my Mind

5,000 tickets were printed for the first Gilroy Garlic Festival. When 15,000 people turned up, volunteers had to sell the tickets, collect them, and rush them back to the admissions booth so they could be sold again. It was 1979. Garlic was still mildly subversive and decidedly lower-class.

In 2009, attendance at the 31st Gilroy Garlic Festival topped 108,000. They came, they saw, but mostly, they ate, devouring garlic bread, fries, scampi, pasta, corn, quesadillas, sausage, escargot, kebobs, almonds, ice cream, and even garlic watermelon. Garlic has come a long way. Even the once garlic-averse Japanese have acquired a taste for it (and have their own garlic festival in Takk0-Machi.)

Gilroy’s garlic festival was the brainchild of Dr. Rudy Melone who moved there to run a community college. A Bronx-raised Italian, Melone had grown up eating loads of garlic and was astounded to see that Gilroy’s locals viewed their chief export with more embarrassment than pride. He’d read about a garlic festival held in Arleux, a tiny French town of 2,500, that welcomed 80,000 revelers annually. Arleux even called itself “the garlic capital of the world.” Nonsense, he thought, knowing that Gilroy’s enormous production made it a vastly more credible garlic capital. Passing through, humorist Will Rogers had even proclaimed Gilroy “the one town in America where you can marinate a steak by hanging it on a clothesline.”

Melone wrote to the mayor of Arleux asking how they ran their festival. The mayor wrote back in French of course and sent a mimeographed festival program and a ten-foot-long loaf of garlic bread that Melone’s wife remembers stunk up the garage.

Initially, the festival idea was shot down by civic leaders, so Melone went directly to the garlic farmers, immediately getting Gilroy’s largest garlic grower, Don Christopher on board. Christopher had founded Christopher Ranch in 1956 because he was sick of the family business -- cultivating prunes. What started as a 10-acre operation is today, a 5,000-acre facility that produces more than 60 million pounds of garlic annually. A media event cooked up by Melone and Christopher, with the aid of gregarious local chef Val Filice, was such a success that the city pols had no choice but to reluctantly sign on.

The man in charge of printing the festival poster was so sure that Gilroy’s first garlic festival would also be its last that he didn’t put a date on it. Morning fog gave way to sunshine on the first Friday in August and the alliophiles started coming, and kept coming, descending on Gilroy in droves. As the crowd swelled, local women frantically cooked up vats of pasta in a house near the festival grounds. Filice, a dead-ringer for Anthony Quinn as Zorba, manned the grills at Gourmet Alley. When they started to run low on seafood, his thunderous voice rang out, ordering men to drive down to Monterey to get more prawns and squid. And when they ran out of beer, the beer chairman called Budweiser and said, “Heck, forget the kegs. Start sending us the trucks.”

In 2009, I joined the revelers at the 31st anniversary of Gilroy’s folksy, fun, and family-friendly festival. I tasted garlic ice cream, something that was, to borrow from author David Foster Wallace, a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again. I savored one of over 10,000 servings of Gilroy Garlic Fries and relished a platter from the over 1,500 pounds of Garlic Scampi cooked up by the festival’s Pyro Chefs in Gourmet Alley. The Pyro Chefs are famous for their spectacular grill flame-ups -- which send flames rocketing five feet in the air.

I watched the finals of the Recipe Contest Cook-off in which the winning recipe was a sweet surprise: Spicy Garlic Butter Cookies with Garlic Goat Cheese and Honey. Winner Andrew Barth donned the coveted garlic crown and pocketed $1,000. I learned how to braid garlic and watched, uncomfortably, as onlookers cheered on the four Mexican workers in the Garlic Topping Contest. Topping is the process of trimming the roots and stalks from the dried garlic and the contest looked more like a Migrant Worker Off than family fun. (Imagine, spectators cheering while slaves pick cotton and you get the idea.) After the contest, onlookers were invited to swarm down and gather up as much garlic as they could carry and wrest away from others. Two Asian women proved mightier than their slight appearance suggested. They walked away with at least fifty bulbs -- each.

I walked away with a Gilroy Garlic Festival apron which I won because I was the only person in the stadium during the cook-off who knew that the end of the Indian proverb, “Garlic is as Good as ___” was “Ten Mothers,” not “Sex,” “Chocolate,” or “Anything Else.”
Whenever he was asked about his initial reaction to the garlic festival, Filice, who ran Gourmet Alley until his death in 2007, said, “I thought they were nuts.” Today, there are dozens of garlic festivals around the United States and Canada.

Labels: , , , ,

10 Quotes about Garlic

I'm writing a book on the history of garlic so putting this list together is technically research. Enjoy and don't be surprised if you find yourself craving garlic bread or shrimp scampi.

Shallots are for babies; Onions are for men; Garlic is for heroes.

Author unknown

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.
The Holy Bible, Numbers 11

Since garlic then hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath.
Salerno Regimen of Health (12th century)

And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic for we are to utter sweet breath.
A Midsummer Night's Dream William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

It is not really an exaggeration to say that peace and happiness begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking.
X. Marcel Boulestin, first television chef (1878-1943)

Without garlic, I simply would not care to live.

Louis Diat, chef of the Ritz Hotel (1885-1958)

A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.
Yiddish Proverb, Early 20th century

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch, Your heart's an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, You've got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch.
Dr. Seuss (1966)

Tomato and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.
Alice May Brock (of Alice’s Restaurant)

You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times.
Morley Safer (1994)

Labels: , , , , , ,