Gathering Swing – It’s what happens once you get here and get into the rhythm of the place.
Swing on through. What you’ve come for will be here in spades, be it playing a bunch of hand made instruments, or working on or talking the technical and artistic aspects of building them.
If none of that is for you, there will be plenty of non-builders here to discuss art, history, philosophy, archeology, geology, and a dozen other things. And if that don’t float your boat, there’s more great food and beer and music than you can shake a stick at.
Whatever your bailiwick, you can immerse yourself in it, or do as I do, and drift in and out of things as you see fit. Of course, since I’m the Chef, I spend more time on food than anyone else, and that’s exactly how I like things.
Chef swing – A Chef working a thing like this has to do a lot of planning, but probably not as you might think it’ll go – we plan main courses, sides, and deserts, to some degree – But any given meal may need to feed 12 or 60, and everything in between.
On top of that, folks will bring stuff – some will tell you they’re bringing it, and some won’t, and their level of concern over how and when the dish gets used will vary as well. Blending all that, making enough food, and having ample contingency plans for leftovers is par for the course, and requires diplomacy, humor, and quick thinking.
Take the chickens that became the main dish for Saturday night. Somewhere around 20 folks who’d said they were coming didn’t, and all of a sudden, we’ve got a bunch of left overs – No problem… They found their way into frittatas the next morning, or tarts for brunch after that, and finally into incredible chicken pot pies Sunday night, (if I do say so myself – and I do…)
Here’s some eye candy from the weekend – If anything floats your boat, drop me a line and I’ll give up the recipe for ya.
And we can’t forget the vegetarian crowd, either…
Our friend Doug Luchetti is a source of great stories and ideas. He reads and contemplates voraciously, and shares what he finds.
This piece on Fruit Walls, a forgotten piece of low tech agriculture, seems a timely reminder of how much worked perfectly well before we got smarter and messed most of it up. Before we all go out and start slinging bricks, look at this second pic of an old English version – one good wall might just be all ya need.
Apples are easily among the most beloved, and most maligned fruit out there. They’re beloved because of all they were and could be, and maligned predominantly because of the crap that mass production, grocery store apples have become.
Malus domestica is a member of the Rose Family, grown worldwide, with more than 7,500 known cultivars. Apples come from Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, can be found to this very day – here in the U.S., you can find starts for that very tree if you wish.
Yet not so long ago, most grocery chains carried maybe five varieties, two of which were delicious, (Red and Golden, neither of which actually are delicious…), along with Granny Smith, Gala, and Fuji. There are deep problems with all of these, and here’s why. These varieties, all of them that you find in the store, are bred not so much for flavor as they are for the ability to withstand storage, travel, and stocking – Those are not attributes we’re wanting in an apple, frankly. Nowadays, there are more varieties in most stores, but we still have the problem of freshness. 90% of the time, what you’re buying is last year’s crop, or maybe this year’s from New Zealand, that travelled thousands of miles to show up in Your Town, U.S.A. Neither of those options brings apples at anything close to peak freshness.
Apples grown in this country are a late summer, early fall crop. For large scale commercial purposes, apples are picked slightly green and then, since 2002, sprayed with 1-methylcyclopropene, a chemical meant to prolong use storage. They’re then waxed or shellacked, boxed, crated, and stored in an low temp/high CO2 environment to discourage ethylene production. There they stay for an average of nine to twelve months. They may, (and often are), also treated with fungicides while in storage.
It’s important to note that buying organic may not save you from all these ills. Much large scale organic farming has been bought out by mega-corporations, and they can and do still use the same 1-methylcyclopropene, wax, shellac, and extended storage techniques as non-organic fruit.
1-methylcyclopropene, trade name SmartFresh, is supposedly not toxic to humans or the environment, but there’s a distinct problem with those claims. According to an article published by the American Society of Horticultural Science, “1-MCP is being used on 16 horticultural products, but much commercially relevant research on its effects is proprietary. For example, research using 1-MCP to increase potential for shipping longer distances or increasing market share of various fruit is being undertaken around the world under confidentiality agreements.” Meanwhile, PesticideInfo.org basically notes that most specific information regarding the potential effects of SmartFresh are “not available,” which is disappointingly in keeping with the ASHS’s findings.
Add to all that a Canadian study that shows that much of the good stuff in apples is seriously degraded after only 3 months of storage, and you’ve pretty much got the big picture view of why store bought apples suck. Fresh apples provide notable dietary fiber, simple, easily digestible sugars, and lots of polyphenols, a potent antioxidant. Yet stored for 9 to 12 months, pretty much all that antioxidant is gone.
But enough doom and gloom: All is not lost – in fact, there’s much light at the end of the tunnel; heirloom apples are making a broad come back, and some cool new varieties are coming available as well. From New England to the Pacific Northwest, and much in between, new-to-most-of-us varieties are finding their way to market. From Community Supported Agriculture, (CSAs), small scale farms, renewed interest by long time growers, and robust university level agricultural programs, variety is returning. Just yesterday, we got notice from our local CSA that one old variety, (Gravenstein, introduced to the U.S. in 1822), and two new varieties were available for as long as they last. A couple weeks ago, in northern Minnesota, I was introduced to the Oriole variety, developed by the University of Minnesota, (as was one of the varieties we were offered here, the Zestar). The Oriole was marvelous; tart, crisp, with just the right sugar balance – Perfect for munching or cooking.
Find and read Rowan Jacobsen’s Apples of Uncommon Character; you’ll find your spirit buoyed, and your interest piqued. Do some research for your neck of the woods – Google heirloom apples and your town, then go out and find them. Hit your farmer’s market or local CSAs. Once you’ve scored, preserve apples the way it’s been done for centuries – can some, dry some, freeze some, and enjoy it all.
Now, let’s cook with some – Here’s what I did with those Orioles in Minnesota, as well as a couple more favorites. Use whatever varieties you find that float your boat – Ask the producers which varieties making for good cooking, and go with those.
Urban’s Apple Crisp
10 Cups fresh Apples
1 Cup Bakers Sugar
1 Cup Quick Oats
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Whole Grain White Flour
1/2 Cup local ESB Ale
1/2 Cup unsalted Butter
1 teaspoon real Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Coriander
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack square in the middle.
Rinse, core, seed and slice apples about 1/2″ thick, (I like the skins on, you can peel them if you wish)
Pile sliced apples into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, glass preferred.
In a small mixing bowl, thoroughly combine bakers sugar, tablespoon of flour, cinnamon, coriander, and pinch of sea salt.
Hand sprinkle that blend over the apples, then pour the ale over all.
In a larger mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda and powder, and melted butter. Blend thoroughly by hand, then pack that evenly on top of the apples.
Bake at 350° F for 40 to 45 minutes, until topping is nicely browned.
Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes prior to serving.
Belgian Waffles with Apple Compote, Bacon, and Cheddar
Heat oven to Warm, add plates for each person, the bacon, and the waffles.
Make the recipe for Belgian Waffles here – 2 to 4 per person, depending on iron size – set in warm oven to hold.
Fry 3-4 slices of fresh, local bacon for each person – set onto paper towels in warm oven.
Slice extra sharp, aged Cheddar very thin and set aside.
For the compote, (enough for 4 to 6)
6 fresh Apples
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Grape Seed Oil
1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar or local Honey
1/4 teaspoon True Cinammon
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla paste or extract, (If using beans, scrape seeds from 1/2 bean).
1/8 teaspoon Allspice
Pinch Sea Salt
Rinse, core, seed and slice apples to about 1/2″ thickness
In a sauté pan over medium heat, add oil and butter, allow to melt and heat through.
Add sliced apples, agave or honey, and all spices, toss to combine thoroughly and coat with the oil and butter.
When the blend starts to simmer, reduce heat to medium low and sauté for about 15 minutes, until apples are very tender.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for 15 minutes prior to serving.
To serve, lightly butter waffle, add strips of bacon, then compote, then top with cheddar.
Then there’s the savory side…
Chutney is a favorite of mine since I was a kid, making it with my Mom each fall. The combination of fruit and savory elements is a big winner; apple chutney goes great with pork, chicken, wild rice, even soufflés, believe it or not. It’s easy to make and stores well; it’ll last 2 weeks refrigerated, and much long if you decide to water bath can it. Spicier, more piquant apple varieties make for better chutney than the overly sweet ones do.
Apple Chutney – About 6 Cups
10 to 12 fresh Apples
2 fresh large Navel Oranges
1 large Sweet Onion
1 Cup Live Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup local Honey
1″ piece fresh Ginger Root
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1 Cup Golden Raisins
6-8 Cherry Tomatoes
Rinse, core, and seed apples, then rough chop.
Rinse, peel, stem and dice onion.
Rinse, peel and mince ginger root.
Rinse and pat dry oranges; zest and juice both, set that aside.
In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, combine all ingredients thoroughly, then bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 50 minutes, until the mix has thickened notably and most of the free liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat, transfer to a non-reactive bowl and allow to cool thoroughly. Store in clean, glass canning jars, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
And of course, I wouldn’t be me without including an apple salsa. Rather than a cooked or blended version, good apples lend themselves especially well to a pico de gallo style salsa. Again, pick a tart, spicy variety when you make this one.
Urban’s Apple Salsa
4-6 fresh Apples, (about 2 Cups volume)
2 fresh, firm Tomatoes
1/2 small, Sweet Onion
1-3 Jalapeño Chiles
1 fresh small Lime
6-8 stalks fresh Cilantro
Drizzle Agave Nectar
Sea Salt and fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Zest and juice the lime, set both aside
Rinse, core, and seed apples, then uniform dice.
Toss apples into a large mixing bowl, then add lime juice and zest, and toss to incorporate.
Peel and stem onion, then fine dice.
Rinse, core and seed tomatoes, then fine dice
Peel, seed, and devein jalapeños, then fine dice.
Add all veggies to the mixing bowl and toss to incorporate.
Add agave, pinch of salt and a couple twists of pepper; taste and adjust seasoning.
Allow salsa to rest in a non-reactive bowl for at least 30 minutes, refrigerated, prior to serving.
You may have heard it here first, and no, it's not a joke… Just got this from our friend Alice at Log House Plants. You can bet we'll be growing, reporting on, and creating recipes for these!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vista, CA Dec. 12, 2014
Beyond the Dreams of Burbank: Ketchup ‘n’ Fries™ Finally a Reality for American Gardens
Luther Burbank, the “Wizard of Santa Rosa” astounded the gardening world in the early 1900's with the first known graft of a tomato stem onto potato roots. His comment that “… the results of this strange alliance were interesting to the last degree” was definitely an understatement. The practicality of such a vegetable union was way ahead of its time and horticulturists have striven to perfect this possibility for the last century.
Now, American grafting leaders, SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables, LLC (creators of the Mighty 'Mato brand) have brought Burbank's vision to reality with the release of Ketchup ‘n’ Fries™ by TomTato®. Specialty hand-grafted plants are being offered to American gardeners in the 2015 growing season for the first time! This recent effort has been in the works for over 15 years in Europe and was released into the British market as TomTato® in 2014. Plug Connection in San Diego County holds the exclusive production rights for starter plants that will be shipped to growers all over North America.
• Harvest both tomatoes AND potatoes from this unique plant!
• Incredible innovation in vegetable growing
• All natural, non-GMO
• Tomatoes for snacking, salads, sauces and ketchup
• Potatoes can be baked, boiled, mashed, roasted and cut for chips and fries
• Grow in the vegetable garden or in a patio container!
Name: John Bagnasco Name: Alice Doyle
Title: Marketing/Research Title: Marketing/Research
We've been delving deeper into oils and fats, springing from a couple of questions Christy posed back a week or so. Her tongue in cheek caveat for asking was that she's “always looking at that little bottle of sesame oil and wondering…” She hits the nail on the head with this observation; sesame oil is one many of us have but use quite sparingly, and as such, it's prone to being well past its prime when we next reach for the bottle. Fortunately, you can make your own at home, and enjoy a fresher, more robust product completely free of additives as well.
Sesame oil is derives from sesame seeds; the nutritional value of the oil closely mirrors the seed form, containing important trace elements like calcium, copper, zinc, iron, and magnesium. Extracting your own oil is a bit labor intensive, but also a fun exercise in cooking chemistry. Here's how to do up a small batch without the need for a $150 manual oil press.
1/4 Cup fresh white Sesame Seeds
1 Cup fresh Sunflower Oil
In a preheated 350° F oven, dry roast fresh white sesame seeds on a clean, dry baking sheet. After about 10 minutes, give the seed a good stir, then continue roasting, watching carefully, for another 5 to 10 minutes. When the seeds have turned light golden brown and release a distinct nutty scent, remove them from the oven, and place them on a plate to cool.
Non-pressed, reasonably effective extraction of sesame oil is achieved with moderate heat and sunflower oil, at a ratio of .25:1 cups sesame to sunflower. In a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine the oil and seeds. Stir occasionally and allow to heat through for 10 minutes.
Remove the mix from heat and, while still warm, pour carefully into a blender. Process in short pulses until the seeds are evenly broken up into a slurry with the oil.
Transfer the slurry to a glass bowl, cover with a clean cloth or paper towel and allow to steep and cool for 2 hours.
Strain the oil blend through butter muslin into a clean bowl. You may require two straining passes to clarify the oil adequately if you use a cheesecloth of lesser density.
Store the extracted oil in an airtight glass container for up to 3 months.
If you like herbs like we like herbs, then you plow through more than the average American. There are also likely fresh favorites you keep around pretty much all the time. For us, that would include cilantro and parsley. Both have subtle, lovely flavor profiles that go great with many dishes.
That said, both can get long in the tooth quite quickly. They're highly perishable, and can be hard to keep fresh after even a couple of days in your fridge. Considering the handling such foods receive as a part of modern distribution and sales, it's no wonder, really. A little handling and preserving work can go a long way toward having these indispensable always at hand.
When you get delicate perishables home, inspect them first and foremost. Get them out of the plastic produce bags, and better yet, don't put them in those things in the first place and reduce your plastic throughput. Remove any off colored or bruised stuff and toss it in your compost.
Give your goods a gentle rinse in cold, running water. Shake them dry, gently but thoroughly; excess water is not a friend to successful storage.
Remove any rubber bands or twist ties; all they do is bruise the goods and promote rot.
Place the washed produce on a clean paper towel and let them air dry a bit. Wrap the goods in the paper towel and store them in your crisper drawer just like that. If you use what you buy steadily, and pay attention to FIFO, (First In, First Out), in your fridge, your cilantro, parsley, green onions, radishes, etc will stay fresher, longer.
Consider drying some of those staple fresh herbs. It's a given that fresh is better than dry, but house dried herbs from a good fresh source are far better than store bought or none. Those faves of ours will dry thoroughly in a dehydrator in less than 30 minutes. I've tested both cilantro and parsley and found that our home dried stuff retains reasonably potent flavor for up to a month when stored in glass, in a cool, dark, dry spice cabinet.
Finally, and especially as the winter months are upon us, plant a fresh herb window box. An 18″ x 6″ x 6″ box will allow you to grow a full raft of your faves, and reasonable tending will sustain them through the season. There's nothing cheerier in the dark months than fresh, bright herbs growing in your kitchen.
In his epic tell all, Kitchen Confidential, my favorite kitchen kermudgeon, Anthony Bourdain, had this to say about garlic.
“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
Ah Tony Bourdain, never at a loss for words…
Is he over the top?
Is he correct?
I’d say 90% yes, but let’s just break down his specific contentions to be sure, shall we?
First off, we have the implied divinity of garlic: Is he right?
In a word, yup.
Allium Sativum, of the Family Rosacea, (why it’s sometimes called ‘the stinking rose), is indeed magic, and its broad, utilitarian beauty is admirable. No other veggie has that ethereal combination of bite, heat, and sweet that garlic packs. What the author doesn’t note is that all garlic is not created equal. There are hundreds of cultivated garlic varieties worldwide, which is great if you’re a gardener or know a generous one. If you have a green thumb and your cultivation zone can handle it, by all means grow it. Just Google ‘Heirloom garlic starts’ and you’ll find a veritable cornucopia of options. Otherwise, hit up your local farmers market or CSA and load up when the magic is in season.
Great garlic is usually not available year round to the vast majority of us. As such, some plan for preservation is in order. Drying is your best bet; while there is a certain loss of flavor, it’s a given that great garlic dried will be better than OK garlic fresh, so it’s worth the effort. You should peel the cloves, and at the least, cut ’em in half, though you can chop or mince if you like; process in a dehydrator or warm oven until they’re light and dry to the feel.
Please know that garlic in oil is not a safe methodology; garlic is a low acid food, and you’re begging for botulism here. Making garlic oil in small batches and freezing it is A-OK. Puree your garlic, mix it with good olive oil, strain it through cheese cloth or a fine, double sieve. This is another perfect ice cube tray application – freeze it that way and pop a cube out for use.
You can and should pickle garlic, it’s delightful and has a complexity like no other. Finally, garlic salt or pepper are nice options as well. Kosher or sea salt both work fine, though the uniform grain of kosher probably works best; for garlic pepper, use whole black tellicherry berries. 1/4 cup of garlic for each cup of salt or pepper will do the trick. Preheat your oven to warm, or 180° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the garlic cloves, then add them straight away with the salt or pepper to a food processor. Process for about 30 seconds, until you’ve got a uniform texture. Spread the results into an even, thin layer on your baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, until the results are crisp and dry. You do not want them to brown, so keep an eye on things. Transfer the salt or pepper back to the processor using the parchment. Pulse a few times to break things up to an even consistency. Stored in airtight glass jars, your housemade lovelies are good to go for 3 or 4 months.
If the grocery is your only option, then what you’re likely to find will break down into three varieties; Softneck, Hardneck, and Elephant.
Softneck Garlic is the most common variety you’ll find; this is the fat, white head of multiple cloves with several layers of papery, thin skin surrounding that you can score for roughly .50¢ a pop. It’s also the easiest variety to grow in a backyard garden. Softneck garlic has a fairly strong garlic bite and a sweet, pungent odor. Most garlic heads that have been braided together are softneck varieties. Common Softneck varieties include California Early, California Late and Creole.
Hardneck Garlic is a bit less common, but still can be found in grocery stores. Hardneck features lovely shades of purple through brown, with thin skins and larger and fewer cloves than the softneck stuff. These varieties are generally somewhat stronger in flavor and scent than the soft stuff, and they generally don’t store as well, so it’s prudent to use them quickly after you buy. Commonly found Hardneck varieties include German Extra Hearty and Roja.
Elephant Garlic is the third variant you’re likely to find. It features a big ol’ head of very large cloves that can approach shallots in size. Prized for its subtle, mild flavor and scent, elephant garlic is great for folks who don’t like their garlic too assertive.
Onward! Bourdain’s next claim is that garlic “can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly,” and that “misuse of garlic is a crime;” he is spot on here, though there are a couple of critical points left unstated.
First off, what the artist formerly known as Chef doesn’t say is this; more than how you prep it, the most important caveat for “correct” is how much garlic to use. Garlic is by nature potent, and this is why so many cooks over-season with it. Too much can bring out the negative aspects of its character every bit as much as improper cooking can. My simple rule is this: If the dish you’re making has garlic in the title, then you should use enough to bring it to the forefront of the flavor profile. When this is the case, do consider what form you’re going to use the garlic in. Let’s say you’re making garlic lamb or chicken; whole, peeled cloves added to a brine or marinade, or braised or roasted with the protein will deliver a lot of garlic flavor without blowing your socks off. Fewer cloves minced, diced, or crushed can be every bit as potent or more so than whole peeled cloves.
If garlic is not in a lead role, err to the side of caution and use less than you think you should. Let’s take chili for example – Garlic belongs here, but not as a dominant note. You’re after the subtle, sweet mouth feel a little garlic adds to a dish like this, so a moderate sized clove, one clove, will do for a whole pot of chili. That’s what I mean by subtle use; folks won’t even necessarily know garlic is there, but it will add that certain je ne sais quoi nonetheless. Consider adding peeled, whole cloves to soups, stews, and low and slow braised or roasted dishes; that’ll impart a nice, subtle background flavor, and some lucky diner gets to find a treat as well.
Next comes old garlic, and that is indeed a crime of epic proportion. Add to this, sub-par garlic. Since in large part we’re talking about gathering here, (AKA, shopping), then with whichever variety you’re hunting, do your due diligence. Choose firm, uniform heads with no soft spots, off colors, or smells. You should squeeze and scrutinize garlic as you would any other veggie you pay good money for.
Then there’s the storage thing. I’ll just tell ya straight up that garlic does not belong in the fridge, ’cause that will encourage sprouting, which leads pretty quickly to off flavors. Keep your garlic in a well ventilated, dry container, out of strong, direct sunlight. Garlic will last a month or two so stored, but as cheap as it is, you’re best served to buy a small head at a time and use it promptly.
When you’re ready to use the stuff, fresh garlic cloves should be firm and creamy white in color; if they’re yellowish, have brown spots, and/or are starting to sprout, toss it. That stuff will have a hot, bitter taste that is quite off-putting.
Burnt garlic comes next, and should we even have to say no to that? Actually, we do, because it happens far too often. Burnt garlic brings out the worst in this heavenly stuff, turning complex, sweet and pungent to bitter, sour, and overpowering. It will overwhelm everything else in a dish in a New York minute. Understanding how and why garlic burns is the key to avoiding this mess. Throwing garlic into a dish too soon often leads to burning: In a little oil in a saucepan over medium high heat, any form of processed garlic can and will burn within a minute or two at most; that’s why it should always be the last thing you add. Longer cooking under any kind of high heat will make garlic taste bitter, even if you don’t burn it. Smashing, pressing, mincing, dicing, and slicing garlic releases more flavor than cooking with whole cloves, but it also makes for a bunch more surface area that can potentially burn.
This ties into Anthony’s next assertion, castigating “garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press.”
For the former, he’s right on the money. The longer garlic sits after being cut, the more the essential oils and compounds that make it great begin to break down into other, much less desirable constituents. Ideally, it should be prepped 5 to 10 minutes prior to cooking with it; this little rest helps stabilizes the garlic, making it more resistant to heat.
As to the latter, I respectfully disagree. Pressed garlic is no more a crime than puréed, smashed, or minced.
Furthermore, there not only is a place for all these variants in cooking, they may actually be good for us.
Garlic contains a sulfoxide derivative of the amino acid cysteine, called Alliin, as well as a catalyzing enzyme, Alliinase. In a whole clove, these constituents remain separated within the cell structure. Slicing, chopping, mincing or pressing garlic ruptures the cells, releasing these elements to combine and form a new compound, Alliicin, the primary biologically active compound within garlic. Alliisin is garlic’s defense mechanism, released to ward of pests in the natural world. It is responsible for the pungent aroma, as well as the bite/heat/power of the stuff. Alliicin has known anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and may aid in the reduction of atherosclerosis, decrease blood pressure, and provide anti-inflammatory properties as well.
In short, sorry Tony, but chopping, mashing and yes, even pressing garlic finely, produces more Alliisin, and coincidentally, provides the strongest garlic bang for the buck.
He goes on to vilify any form of processed garlic sold in a jar, and for the most part, he’s right. That stuff is far from fresh, and whatever methods are used to shelf stabilize it aren’t anything you should be hankering for.
Next, Bourdain encourages us all to enjoy roast garlic, and upon this there can be nothing negative said.
Roast garlic is indeed food of the gods, and here’s how you do it.
Preheat your oven to 400° F and place a rack dead in the middle.
Prep whole heads of garlic by removing the thicker outer papery layers.
Leave the skins on the individual cloves and carefully remove about the top 1/4″ of each, exposing the cloves.
Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in each clove, then loosely cover them with aluminum foil.
Roast for about 30 minutes until the tops of each clove is golden brown and they’re soft to the touch.
Allow the cloves to cool until handleable. Use a small fork or knife to extract the soft garlic and spread it onto fresh, crusty bread. Welcome to Heaven.
If roasted garlic is heaven, confit garlic is Valhalla.
Peel a few heads of garlic down to whole cloves.
In a small sauce pan over medium low heat, heat extra virgin olive oil through, then add the garlic, making sure all the cloves are fully submerged. Heat slowly but thoroughly for about an hour, until the cloves are soft. Keep the heat low so that the garlic doesn’t brown. Serve spread onto fresh, crusty bread with a nice glass of red.
Lastly, Le Tony notes, “Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
And on that final note, we disagree completely.
As I mentioned before, great garlic dried is really good garlic, especially if you made it at home.
It is indeed, and we can all play a part.
Hunger is pandemic throughout our world, and right here in the U.S. is no exception. In fact, your home town is likely no exception.
Granted, we should all do our part year round, but this is as good a time to start, share, or emphasize as any.
I don’t generally like being told what charity or effort needs my help, but in something as basic and pervasive as this, I think we can all make an exception. Here are some ideas for all of us.
1. Volunteer at a local food bank or shelter. None of these institutions is swimming in personnel, and all of them rely on volunteers too some degree.
2. Volunteers to deliver for Meals on Wheels. It’s a great program and a wonderful opportunity to help.
3. Donate from your garden. Fall is a significant harvest season. If you or someone you know has fresh produce to spare, donate to an area food bank. Fresh produce is almost always the hardest thing for them to find on a consistent basis, so next planting cycle, plant a row or two specifically to donate from.
4. Organize a neighborhood/area/school/town food drive. If your local haunt doesn’t have such services, I’d almost guarantee there’s a need; maybe you’re the one to make it happen. If they do have services, they’ll never say no to a well organized food drive.
Our dearest friends Christy and Grant, who were largely responsible for this blog coming to be, are inveterate growers of mushrooms. They have fine crops of quite a few fairly exotic and more-often-found as wild varieties growing on their northern Minnesota spread. All that said, they still like to forage, and yesterday, they happened on a real treat and a rarity in their neck of the woods, a 10 pound Maitake mushroom.
If the Japanese name for these beauties doesn’t strike a chord, you may know it as Hen of the Woods, Rams Head, Sheeps Head, or the Signorina mushroom. They’re widely prized for eating by numerous cultures. Maitake and its close cousin, Chicken of the Woods, are two of my all time favorite fungi; they have a bright, savory taste profile that even folks who “don’t like mushrooms” will likely dig. Grifola frondosa is the formal name for Maitakes, which are native to the northeastern US and Japan. They grow in clusters at the base of trees, and are particularly fond of oaks. As with all fungi, you should forage only what you can 100% positively identify. Note that Maitakes, like many fungus, becomes just too tough to eat when they get long in the tooth.
Chris asked for some recipe ideas, which we’ll definitely do, but first, a few words on preserving. If you’re lucky enough to come upon a big stash of wild mushrooms like this, you absolutely must preserve some to enjoy in the dark months down the road. Freezing or drying are both viable options.
For either freezing or drying, thoroughly but gently wash each head until the rinse water runs clear.
Separate the heads into smaller, cauliflower-like stalks, and rinse the remaining stalks thoroughly again.
To freeze, allow the stalks to air dry. Arrange stalks on a cookie sheet with room for air flow around each. Place in your freezer overnight.
Frozen stalks can be vacuum sealed, or tossed into ziplock bags that you then suck the air out of. Frozen mushrooms will keep for 4 to 6 months frozen.
To dry Maitakes, place them in a dehydrator, or separated on a cookie sheet in an oven on warm, with the oven door opened slightly. Dry until the stalks are light, shriveled and snap easily without bending, even at their thickest points. Drying has the added advantage of making a big batch of mushrooms much easier to store. Well dried mushrooms will store for up to 12 months.
OK, ’nuff on preserving, let’s cook; here are three recipes that will work wonderfully with Maitake, or dang near any other wild mushrooms you like, solo or blended.
1 Quart cold Water
1 Quart Vegetable Stock
1 Pound Maitake Mushrooms
8-10 Ounce package Rice Noodles
1 Sweet Onion
1-2 Serrano Chiles
3-4 cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Mirin, (Rice Vinegar OK for sub)
2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
3″ to 4″ fresh Lemongrass (1-2 tablespoons)
2″ piece fresh Ginger root
10-12 sprigs fresh Cilantro
Soy Sauce to taste
Fresh bean sprouts
Fresh Basil leaves
Combine water and stock in a stock pot over medium high heat.
Rough chop onion and mushrooms. Fine dice chiles and lemongrass. Mince garlic, cilantro, and ginger.
Sauté onions and garlic with a little vegetable oil until they start to caramelize, then toss them into the stock pot.
Deglaze the sauté pan with rice vinegar. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce, allow to heat through. Add chiles, lemongrass, and ginger and sauté until the chiles start to soften. Add another tablespoon of oil and toss in the mushrooms. Sauté for about 5 minutes until heated through, then set mushrooms aside and toss the rest into the stock pot.
Combine peppercorns in a piece of muslin or a reusable tea bag. Toss them into the pot. Add the chopped cilantro and give everything a good stir. Add soy sauce if you need more; if it’s a bit strong for your taste, squeeze in half a lime instead.
Reduce heat to low and let simmer for two to four hours. Remove the peppercorns.
Boil the rice noodles in a separate pot per directions on the bag.
Thinly slice radishes, quarter the limes, rough chop cilantro, mint, and Basil.
Give every bowl a healthy dose of broth, mushrooms, and noodles. Everybody gets to add sprouts, radish, cilantro, mint, and basil as they see fit.
Serve with icy cold Singha Malt Liquor.
Savory mushrooms are incredibly delicious combined with wild rice and a delicate soufflé; the combination is sublimely flavorful and surprisingly hearty.
4 oz. Wild Rice
1/2 Cup Maitake Mushrooms
1 1/2 Cups Half & Half
1 Cup Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
4 Egg Whites
3 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Grains of Paradise
Prepare rice according to directions.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter, then add flour, salt and pepper. Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until you get a nice color to it.
Add the half & half, stirring constantly, until sauce starts to bubble. Add the cheese steadily in 1/4 cup batches, allowing each to melt completely before you add more. Once all the cheese is incorporated, remove from east and set aside.
In a chilled glass or stainless steel bowl, whisk egg whites until they hold a stuff peak. Set aside in the fridge.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they’re thick and lemon colored.
Gradually add the yolks to the cheese sauce, stirring constantly so egg yolks don’t curdle.
Add the rice to the blend and incorporate thoroughly. Cool the blend in hand fridge for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Lightly butter and dust with flour a 2 quart soufflé dish or individual ramekins.
Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the rice mixture. Gently pour the mix into the soufflé dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the soufflé has risen and is golden brown.
Serve piping hot with a fresh green salad and a nice Chardonnay.
Finally, here’s a fantastic mushroom pâté that’ll blow your socks off, as well as your guests’.
1 Pound Maitake Mushrooms
8 Ounces Chèvre
1/2 Cup fine diced fresh Shallot
1/2 Cup dry White Wine
3 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
2-3 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh Parsley leaves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh Lemon Thyme (1 teaspoon dried, any variety, is fine)
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black Pepper
Trim stems, wipe clean, and coarsely chop the Maitakes.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté, stirring steadily, until they start to go translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté and stir until the Maitakes are wilted and starting to brown. Add the wine, thyme, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté and stir until the wine is nearly all absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and sauté for another minute.
Transfer everything to a food processor. Add the chèvre and process until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Transfer to a glass ramekin or bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours to allow pâté to set.
Cut a fresh baguette into round about 1/2″ thick. Rub the rounds lightly with a clove of garlic and toast them on both sides.
Serve pâté with toast rounds and a nice, cold hard cider.