Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

In Cantonese, garlic is commonly known as "Suin Me" which can be translated as "Plenty of Money to Count” so this recipe is a popular New Year’s dish.

Good Fortune Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce

1 medium head iceberg lettuce
1 1/2 t soy sauce
1 1/2 t sesame oil
1 t rice wine or dry sherry
3/4 t sugar
1/4 t ground white pepper
3 T peanut or vegetable oil
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 t salt

Core the iceberg and separate into leaves. Wash the lettuce in several changes of cold water, breaking the leaves in half. Drain thoroughly in a colander until dry to the touch.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar and pepper.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Add the peanut oil and garlic, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until just fragrant. Add the lettuce and stir-fry one minute. Add the salt and stir-fry another minute, or until the lettuce is just limp. Swirl in the sauce and stir-fry one minute more or until the lettuce is just tender and still bright green.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Elizabeth David!

In honor of the birthday of the great British cookbook writer Elizabeth David (who was born on this day in 1913), I thought I’d write about “The Great Garlic Press Controversy.” In a 1986 issue of Tatler magazine, David wrote an entire essay called “Garlic Presses are Utterly Useless.” Her essay was published as part of a review of John Tovey's book, Feast of Vegetables. Her remarks follow because no one does scathing better than Elizabeth David. (Tovey was flamboyant British pre-Food Network celebrity TV chef.)

“It is when we get to the subject of garlic that I really warm to Mr. Tovey. What he has to say about its preparation is alone with the price of his book. The passage should be reproduced in large type, framed and sold in gift shops for the enlightenment of gadget-minded cooks the length and breadth of the land. In the manner of those pious thoughts which once adorned the walls of cottage parlors, proclaiming that God is Love, or Drink is the Pick-me-up which lets you down, Mr Tovey's text is concise and to the point. Readers, heed him please: I give full marks to the purveyors of garlic presses for being utterly useless objects."

David continues: “I'd go further than that. I regard garlic presses as both ridiculous and pathetic, their effect being precisely the reverse of what people who buy them believe will be the case. Squeezing the juice out of garlic doesn't reduce its potency; it concentrates it and intensifies the smell. I have often wondered how it is that people who have once used one of these diabolical instruments don't notice this and forthwith throw the thing in the dustbin. Perhaps, they do but don't admit it.

Now here's John Tovey again. The consistency you're looking for when adding garlic to a dish is "mushy and paste-like." Agreed. It is quickly achieved by crushing a peeled clove lightly with the back edge of a really heavy knife blade. Press a scrap of salt into the squashed garlic. That's all. Quicker, surely than getting the garlic press out of the drawer, let alone using it and cleaning it. As a one-time kitchen-shop owner who in the past has frequently, and usually vainly, attempted to dissuade a customer from buying a garlic press, I am of course aware that advice not to buy a gadget which someone has resolved to waste their money on is usually resented as bossy, ignorant, and interfering. At least now I am not alone. “

David goes to the mat again later in the book in her recipe for Lemon and Garlic Sauce or Marinade for Grilled Chicken: “Garlic is obviously a potent ingredient. It should not be an acrid one which it becomes when the juices only are extracted by the crushing action of the garlic press.”

Elizabeth David's Lemon and Garlic Marinade for Grilled Chicken

Small (1 lb.) chicken
12 cloves of garlic
3-4 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
Salt (to taste)

1. Mash garlic cloves with salt until mushy and paste-like. Stir in lemon juice, then whisk in olive oil. Marinate chicken for several hours before grilling.

The debate over whether or not to use a garlic press is the culinary equivalent of the evolution debate. Tempers flare and opinions fly, like edicts from warring gods.

The garlic press is relatively recent invention, coming onto the scene in the 1950s. Advocates argue that a garlic press breaks more of the clove’s cell walls giving the garlic a lighter, more delicate flavor. The editors at Cooks Illustrated believe that "a good garlic press can break down cloves more finely and evenly than an average cook using a knife, which means better distribution of garlic flavor throughout any given dish.”

In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961, Julia Child declares the garlic press a “wonderful invention.” Later, in In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs published in 1995, she returns to the garlic press issue in her instructions for making garlic puree. She writes, “The garlic press will do the job, but a garlic press, at least among certain of the food cognoscenti, is absolutely a no-no-non-object used only by non-people and non-cooks. Thus it behooves us all to know of and to be able to execute this perfect hand technique, which actually is fast and easy when you have several cloves of garlic that need the treatment.” Child had far harsher words for garlic powder, declaring it “most definitely spurned, scorned despised, and abominated among cooks in the know.”

An extreme, but unethical fan of the garlic press is Tory MP James Arbuthnot. During the British MP expense scandals, it was revealed that he had claimed £43.56 for three "four piece garlic peeling and cutting sets" from shopping channel QVC. When challenged, the unrepentant MP replied, “They tend to break.”

The opponents of the garlic press are a more vociferous bunch and probably much more fun to have a drink with. Not surprisingly, Anthony Bourdain has strong feelings about the press as well as the criminal misuse of garlic. He called garlic presses “disgusting abominations” and says “I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out of the end of those things, but it ain't garlic." Iron Chef Michael Symon admits he wants to "kill the guy who invented the garlic press." Food Network star (and culinary geek) Alton Brown seconds David declaring them “utterly, completely, magnificently useless.”

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse sees no reason to waste money on a garlic press or any other fancy gadgets. She recommends using a mortal and pestle to make a garlic puree and offers The French Grandmother’s Fork Method: Press the tines of a fork against a cutting board. Then rub a garlic clove back and forth over the tines to make a quick garlic paste.

Happy Boxing Day!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Poulet Bearnaise from Provence

In Provence, Ford Madox Ford’s rapturous ode to the region, the author describes a recipe given to him by a glamorous young woman from London who was reputed to be one of the best chefs in the city. She shares this recipe for Poulet, Bearnaise, chicken roasted over two pounds of garlic. Ford Maddox Ford was born on December 17, 1973. Joyeux Anniversaire et Bon Appetit!

Poulet Bearnaise

1 c. olive oil
1 large roasting chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
Kosher salt and pepper
2 lbs. garlic (24 to 30 bulbs, not cloves)
4 large baking potatoes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. On another burner, place a large ovenproof casserole over medium heat with 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Truss the chicken and season it all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper. When the oil is hot, gently slide the chicken, breast-down, into the casserole. Brown the chicken carefully on all sides. You will need to move the chicken around every two to three minutes so that the skin doesn't stick. The entire procedure will take about 20 minutes.

While the chicken is browning, break the garlic into individual cloves, but do not peel them. When the water boils, blanch the garlic for 2 minutes, drain immediately, refresh under cold running water and set aside. Peel the potatoes, cut each into six pieces and set aside.

When the chicken is brown on all sides, remove it from the casserole and push a quarter of the blanched garlic into the cavity and set aside. Discard the used olive oil; wipe the casserole. Add ¼ c. of new olive oil to the bottom of the casserole. Add the remaining garlic cloves and toss so that the cloves are lightly covered in olive oil. Add the chicken and baste it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Place another skillet over high heat; add the remaining 2 T. of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, quickly brown the potatoes. Discard the oil and arrange the potatoes around the chicken. Cover the casserole, put in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Released in 1988

The madcap comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine was the box office winner the weekend of December 16, 1988, earning almost $4 million in one weekend. In this recipe for Gamberoni con Salsa Vigliacca, Vigliacca means scoundrel which in the case of the sauce means that it's spiced with chile peppers. This dish has been served at Trattoria Garga since it opened in 1979. They say its good on everything from pasta to meat loaf. It was great on pasta but even if I ate meat, I don't think I'd put spicy tomato sauce with shrimp on meatloaf.

Gamberoni con Salsa Vigliacca

8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 ripe medium tomatoes,cored and quartered
3–4 Italian whole dried red chiles, crushed, or 1/4–1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
30 large fresh or thawed frozen heads-on shrimp (about 1 1/2 lbs.), peeled, head and tail shells intact
2 tbsp. cognac
Leaves from 2 sprigs parsley, chopped

1. Heat 4 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and chiles, season to taste with salt, and cook, crushing pieces of tomato with the back of the spoon and stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 8–10 minutes. Set sauce aside.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in another large skillet over high heat. Add half the shrimp in a single layer and cook, turning once, until cooked halfway through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer shrimp to a plate and set aside.
Repeat process with the remaining 2 tbsp. oil and shrimp.

3. Return same skillet to medium-high heat. Carefully add cognac to skillet and cook, gently shaking skillet over heat, until alcohol evaporates, about 30 seconds. Add reserved tomato sauce and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are completely cooked through, 3-4 minutes.

4. Divide shrimp and sauce between 6 medium plates, spooning sauce over and around shrimp, then garnish each plate with parsley.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

George Washginton's Garlic Mash

It's well-known that by the time he became president, George Washington had lost most of his teeth and was burdened by ill-fitting dentures. Unsurprisingly, he took a liking to soft foods like hoecakes and mashed potatoes. Our first president died on this date in 1799.

This recipe for roasted garlic mashed potatoes, taken from Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, was adapted for modern cooks by Suzy Evans who blogs at

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter
¾ cup heavy cream

In a large pot of cold water, bring the potatoes and garlic to a boil. Salt the water and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Mash over low heat with the butter, cream and 2 teaspoons salt. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Captain von Trapp!

The brilliant actor Christopher Plummer, quite possibly North America's greatest, was born on December 13, 1929 in Toronto, Canada. And while he dislikes his classic role in The Sound of Music, finding him boring and uninteresting, he's just plain wrong.

When asked his favorite smell, he was just plain right when he replied, "Garlic." Plummer's autobiography lists several positive garlic memories, including noshing on calamari simmering in garlic while drinking "glass after glass" of Chichon in Segovia. (Chichon is an anisette-style liqueur).

I adapted this recipe for traditional gambas al ajillo by replacing the shrimp with calamari and the sherry with anisette for a subtle licorice flavor. (If you'd prefer, stick with sherry and enjoy "glass after glass" of anisette separately.)

Calamari al Ajillo

1 lb calamari, sliced into thin rings
4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 oz of dry sherry (or replace with anisette or Pernod)
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
3 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon for juice
1 Baguette

In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about one minute or until they begin to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp, lemon juice, dry sherry or anisette, and paprika. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the calamari are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer calamari with oil and sauce to a warm plate or serve right from the pan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with fresh bread to soak up the sauce.

Guten Appetit and Buen Provecho!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Seoul Food

I just got back from two weeks in Korea complete with tragic, disconcerting, but ultimately, insignificant North-South skirmishes and War Games. Garlic, like the Garlic Spam above, is big in Korea. Koreans are the world's largest per capita consumers of garlic, eating a staggering twenty-two pounds a year. (In comparison, Americans consume a paltry 2.6 pounds).

In fact, the importance of garlic dates back to Korea's incarnation as a nation. According to an ancient legend. God sent his son to earth to build a peaceful kingdom and be its king. One day, a tiger and a bear who observed the happy and civilized lives of man went to the king and asked him to reincarnate them in human form. The king gave them twenty cloves of garlic and a handful of mugwort and told them to go into a cave to pray. He told them, “ If you eat these and do not see sunlight for one hundred days you will become human beings." The impatient tiger gave up and returned to the wild, but the bear prayed and emerged as a woman.

As time went on, the so-called bear-woman desired a child of her own. Touched by her prayers, the king transformed himself, temporarily, into a man and married her. Together, they had a son, Tangun. Tangun succeeded his father as king and became the founding father of Korea. Thus Korea was born, and garlic and mugwort became the country’s first recorded medical herbs.

An earlier post gave a recipe for kimchi (one of over 180 varieties found in Korea). Below, please find a recipe for chojang sauce, a sweet-spicy red chili condiment that 's enjoyed at Seoul's many all-you-can-eat raw tuna restaurants. It's my favorite Korean sauce. Special thanks go out to super blogger Daniel Gray of Seoul Eats who introduced me to Korean raw tuna at Lee Chun Bok, the culinary highlight of my Korean visit.

Gray is one of the reigning authorities on Korean cuisine and worth seeking out if you're visiting Seoul with hopes of experiencing Korea's exquisite cuisine. Gray, who was raised in Delaware, is also a partner in Seoul's O'ngo Food Communications which that offers Korean cooking classes and culinary tours.

Chojang Sauce

5 tbsp kochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)
1 tbsp sugar (or honey)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
2 stalks of green onion, chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until well-blended. If the consistency of the is too thick, thin out with some warm water. Use immediately or refrigerate for later use.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Ulf Ekberg?

Ulf Gunnar Ekberg, one of the founding members of the Swedish rock group Ace of Base, turns 40 today. In a geographically-related item, Swedish farmers claim that draping garlic around the necks of their cows protects them from trolls.

Grattis på födelsedagen, Ulf (congratulations on your birthday) and Lycka till (good luck) with the livestock.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hello Columbus!

On this day in 1492, Genoa native Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and bumped into what is today, the Dominican Republic. In addition to "discovering America," Columbus introduced garlic to the Americas. To say thank you, prepare this recipe for traditional Pesto Genovese. Mangia!

Pesto Genovese

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 c. basil, leaves only, no stems or flowers
1/3 c. pine nuts
1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the garlic in a food processor and pulse to break it into pieces. Add the basil in batches, pulsing each addition to form a roughly chopped mixture. Next add the pinenuts and pulse further to mix in well. Pour in the olive oil and pulse until the mixture comes together and is smooth but still has some texture.

Stir in the Parmesan, salt and pepper and adjust ingredients to your taste. Makes about 1 cup, enough for one pound of dried pasta.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Calvin Trillin!

Mr. Trillin is on of my very favorite writers. Here are two of his best-known garlic quotes.

"Following the Jewish tradition, a dispenser of schmaltz (liquid chicken fat) is kept on the table to give the vampires heartburn if they get through the garlic defense."

“The food in such places is so tasteless because the members associate spices and garlic with just the sort of people they're trying to keep out.”

Trillian tried valiantly to get flavorless turkey replaced with Spaghetti Carbonara as our national Thanksgiving dish. This recipe is from Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires.

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb spaghetti
1/4 to 1/2 lb thickly sliced quality bacon (she likes Nueske’s)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
Black pepper
1/2 c grated parmigiano cheese, extra for table

Boil a large pot of salted water. Throw spaghetti in.

Cut bacon crosswise into pieces ½ inch wide. Put bacon in skillet and cook 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add whole cloves of garlic and cook five minutes, until edges of bacon just begin to crisp. Do not overcook. If too crisp, the bacon won’t meld with the pasta.

Break eggs into the bowl in which you will serve the pasta and beat eggs with fork. Add grindings of pepper.

Remove garlic from bacon pan. It it looks like too much fat to you, discard some. But you are going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta.

When cooked, drain pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat; toss again; add cheese and serve.

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Happy Birthday Burger King!

Burger King was founded 53 years ago today in Miami Florida. (The original Whopper cost 37 cents.) Today, Burger King is known for its regional variants and in Israel (and parts of Sweden), the regular mayo is replaced with garlic mayo. Bon Appetit (in Hebrew and Swedish) נסיעה טובה and Smaklig Måltid!

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