April 19th is Garlic Day, even though in my opinion Garlic Day should really be in July when the Garlic Harvest is going on full scale in Gilroy, California which is the Garlic Capitol of the World. If you have ever been to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy or even have just been in Gilroy around Harvest Time, you will certainly know that Garlic grows here! When you get out of the car your nostrils are assailed with the aroma of Garlic growing, Garlic Roasting and so on. If you love Garlic, as I do, you will be in Garlic Heaven. If you do not like Garlic as my husband does, then you probably won’t even get out of the car as he doesn’t.
One year I, my Daughter-in-Law Nereida and my Grand Daughter, Nesbyth and her Cousin, Christina all went up to Gilroy for the Garlic Festival. There were the Fire Chefs – BBQ with lots of Garlic; their specialty was big flames to show off their BBQ Skill and their food was very tasty, as you can imagine what with all the garlic that was used. There was Garlic Ice Cream, both in Vanilla and Chocolate Varieties. Of course, we all bought Garlic Shirts and braids of Garlic to take home with us. The Garlic Braid shown in the photo above was recently purchased at Garlic World in Gilroy. Even though Garlic Season isn’t until summer, they still have plenty of garlic on hand to sell.
Back now to Garlic. There are many varieties of Garlic, even though you will probably only find one or two in the Supermarket. It is said that there are over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world. Hard to imagine, but probably true. The sub-varieties were cultivated from about 6 main varieties. Garlic grows in bulbs, which are called heads. There are multiple cloves (individual pieces) in each head of garlic, except for one variety, which is a single clove, although it is still round as is a head of garlic.
There is white garlic, red garlic, purple garlic and green garlic. You can purchase Garlic Chives at the Farmer’s Market. There is even a Garlic Plant called Society Garlic which is really more of a flower with a mild garlic aroma. It is not offensive and you can see it growing along the borders of flower beds. The blossom is usually a light purple or lavender color.
There are small bulbs of garlic and large heads of garlic. One of the larger heads is called Elephant Garlic, and it is said that it is not really a true garlic but is really a shallot, which is also in the onion family. A shallot is smaller than an onion and larger than garlic and is milder than either one. Elephant Garlic is milder than its smaller cousins. It seems that as with Chilies, the larger the garlic head or clove, the more flavor it has.
Garlic is used in cooking in everything from salads to sauces and even desserts, such as Garlic Ice Cream. I love Garlic and cook with it all the time. One thing that I like to do with Garlic is to roast the whole head. This can be done, by wrapping a head (or more) of garlic in foil and then roasting it in the oven for about 45 minutes. The result is that you have creamy garlic cloves (which are easy to remove form their skin) that can be rubbed on a piece of toasted (or not) French Bread or can be used in salads and other delectable dishes.
Garlic is good for healthy blood pressure and it used to be used to keep away ‘vampires’ and other bad spirits. You can even buy garlic pills if you don’t like the taste of this amazing vegetable and want the health advantages it possesses.
Some of my favorite foods that contain garlic are:
Bruschetta (the chopped Tomato, Basil Salad that is usually served with the small toasted bread slices) (Mexican) mexican-pizza/
Mafungo – A Puerto Rican dish made with Plantains that are cooked and mashed with Garlic. This dish is the absolute love/hate relationship. I love eating it, but can’t stand the aftertaste that lingers all night.
Try some Garlic in your food today and see how the flavors are enhanced. I think that this year I am going to try growing some Garlic, but I better get to it as pretty soon it will be too late to do so. Look for ‘The Garlic Chronicles’!
There is nothing like really good Italian Meatballs, bursting with the flavor of garlic, onions and herbs and made light and fluffy with the use of eggs.
To make your own Meatballs you will need just a few ingredients. First of all you need the meat (ground beef is my favorite – lean – but some people prefer turkey or chicken or a combination of beef, veal and pork.) For every pound of beef you will need:
- 3 Eggs
- 1/2 cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- 1/2 Onion, chopped
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper
- 3 Tbsps. Romano Cheese
- 1 Tbsp. minced Parsley
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well by squeezing the ingredients together with your hands. (You may wear plastic gloves if you so desire) Be sure that all the ingredients are evenly combined and well mixed.
Shape the meat mixture into golf ball size portions (using a #20 or 30 food scoop works really well) If you are using the scoop, scoop each portion first and place on an oiled tray. Then moisten your hands with cold water and finish shaping the meat into round balls.
There are two methods of cooking:
I – Place the Meatballs on a foil lined jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 20 minutes. Finish cooking them in the sauce of your choice.
II – Heat about 1/4 cup of Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; add the meatballs to the hot oil and cook until brown on the cooked side. Gently turn over and cook on the other side. Remove from the skillet and blot on paper towels, then add to the sauce of your choice.
To see the meatballs sizzling please check out Youtube.
You can make the meatballs early in the day and refrigerate until you are ready to add them to the sauce.
The quantities above will yield approximately 12 – 15 meatballs.
For our Spaghetti and Meatball dinner I made a mushroom sauce with onions, garlic and crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. I used plenty of fresh Basil and about 1-2 tsps. dried Oregano. You can use any kind of pasta that you like but tonight I went traditional and used De Cecco Spaghetti. A mixed green salad and garlic/cheese bread finished off the meal along with mango iced tea.