Garlic is an absolute essential in many Cuisines. It is an aromatic vegetable which creates wonderful flavor, but can easily be over-used. Too much garlic and you will scare away your friends, not just the ‘vampires’. It is also good for your health – it helps to keep the blood pressure down, among other things.
In the photo above, you see Garlic that has been slightly pounded so that the papery skins will come right off. To separate the cloves from the head, just give it a slight whack with your pestle (if you have one) or the bottom of a heavy jar or your rolling pin. The Cloves will instantly split apart. To separate the skin from the cloves, do the same thing. Then you are free to use the Garlic whichever way you please.
You can rub it on the bottom of your salad bowl with a little salt and it will practically melt and season your salad beautifully. In fact, this is the way a true Caesar Salad is made and what would it be without that Garlic!
In the photo above, you see Garlic that has been chopped in a Mini-Mate. This is the easiest way to do it, although many Chefs just prefer to mince it by hand. The Mini-Mate method saves your hands from getting too smelly! If you are going to do a lot of Garlic, this is definitely the way to do it. The chopped Garlic can be Sauteed. Sauteed Garlic goes well with most meats and poultry and even seafood, especially shellfish.
In the photo above, you see Garlic that has been chopped with fresh herbs. Just make sure that your herbs are completely dry after you wash them. Use a clean dish towel or paper towels to dry them. Herbs do not chop well if they are wet.
Add some Saffron or Paprika to your Garlic, Herb Mixture. The Saffro or Paprika becomes a browning agent and gives nice color to your food, especially those that are going to be browned or seared before cooking. In the photo above, not only has Saffron been added to the Garlic herb mixture, but Olive Oil has well. Add a little lemon juice or white wine and you have the perfect marinade for most anything!
In the photo above, is a chicken that has been coated with the Garlic, Herb Marinade. In this photo additional Paprika has been added to the chicken. After it has marinated for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator). If you want to use it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for about half an hour. Then it can be broiled, grilled or baked.
Just remember that Garlic adds wonderful flavor to most food and of course should be used sparingly or with moderation!
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’!
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 & Wednesday
Since my car is in the shop today, thought it would be a good day to get some cooking and baking done. (For a Change!) Removed one quart container of Chicken Broth from the freezer and cut up the center portion of a head of celery and put it into the broth to simmer. While the simmering was taking place, cleaned and sliced about half pound of mushrooms and sautéed 1/3 of them along with some leftover minced Onion in my Soup Pot that I would end up using for the Celery Soup.
While this was happening, decided to cook the Pasta Sauce that I was going to use for Cannelloni that I was planning on for our Dinner tomorrow night. Also defrosted the leftover Basil Pasta Dough that I had in the freezer.
Minced some fresh Oregano and Basil along with Garlic. Sautéed the minced Garlic along with some diced Onion in the Pasta Sauce Pan. While it was sautéing, add a sprinkle of Sea Salt to hasten the cooking and for flavor. When the Vegetables were sufficiently cooked and the Mushrooms were slightly caramelized, added some Marsala and reduced that. Once the Marsala was reduced, added a can of crushed Tomatoes along with some Black Pepper. Allowed to simmer for about an hour before adding the fresh Herbs.
Once the Celery had cooked sufficiently and the Chicken Broth had reduced, I used my Emulsion Blender to puree the Celery/Chicken Broth mixture and then poured it through a strainer to remove any remaining strings or pieces of celery. Added the strained Broth to the pot with the sautéed Mushrooms and Onion and then allowed it to cool down. Decided that this was going to be for dinner tomorrow night and that the Pasta would be for night. A method to my madness here. The past dish was enough for two meals and I figured that if we had it tonight it could then be used again on Thursday night for dinner.
While the Sauce and Soup were cooking, I prepared the Ricotta Cheese filling for the Cannelloni. Into a pint of Ricotta Cheese, I added two Eggs, 1/2 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan, some Salt and White Pepper to taste and some freshly minced Basil.
I laid out the Pasta Dough (it was already cooked) on my largest cutting board working with the pasta strips in a lengthwise fashion, I scooped a portion of cheese onto the short end, about 1″ from the edge. Folded the Pasta over the Cheese twice, cut off the remaining Pasta and placed the Cannelloni in a 9 x 12 Baking Dish. Repeated the procedure until the dish was full. I managed to make 10 Cannelloni from the Cheese Mixture and still had a small portion of pasta leftover that I can use another time. (Froze it again)
Placed a light layer of Sauce over the Cannelloni, covered it and refrigerated it until about an hour before dinner when I will remove it from the fridge to warm up. I transferred the cooled Celery Soup to the Quart container that the Broth was originally in and refrigerated that for the final cooking tomorrow’s dinner.
In addition to the above, I made a Baby Mozzarella Cheese Salad for dinner. Drained the liquid from the Mozzarella balls, cut them in half and then tossed them with freshly minced Basil and Oregano and Garlic along with some aged Balsamic Vinegar, Black Pepper, Sea Salt and Olive Oil. Returned them to the carton and refrigerated. At dinner time, will transfer to a serving dish and surround it with sliced Tomatoes. A very tasty first course that will go well with the Cannelloni.
Since Ev is out of Chocolate Chip Cookies, I also made his weekly ‘Chocolate Fix’. This week it is Brownies which I made with Cocoa Powder instead of Baking Chocolate. Just replaced 1/4 cup of the Flour with the Cocoa. In addition, tried something new by adding about 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon to the Batter. We’ll see how that comes out.
PS The Cinnamon taste was very subtle while it still enhanced the flavor of the Chocolate
It is not 5:06 and the dishwasher has been emptied and all the pots and pans and bowls that I used today have been washed and put away The Cannelloni is sitting out to warm up and will go into a cold oven in 9 minutes. The reason it goes into a cold oven is that the pan I am using is not metal and therefore would be liable to break if put into a hot oven. This way by the time the oven warms up, the pan will have warmed up too.
While the Cannelloni are cooking I will plate the Salad and slice the Tomatoes that goes with it.
This is all the Cooking that I am going to do for this week as I have other events planned. Quite enough though, for one week! Albeit, it has all taken place in two days. One great thing about making dinner early or days in advance, is that I do not always feel like making dinner at dinner time and it is nice to be able to take the dinner out of the refrigerator and just heat it up!