Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Garlic Lovers Unite

To be sure, ‘tis not for Ladies Palats, nor those who court them.” John Evelyn, Acetaria (1699)

In South Florida during the 1960s and ‘70s, bumper stickers attached to the fenders of automobiles announced, “Eat garlic. It’s chic to reek!” Downtown Miami had definitely become chic and wanted the world to know it! A casual stroll on Flagler Street still leaves a non-aficionado gasping for air from the fumes of passers-by. The power of this innocuous little white member of the lily family that breaks apart into a multitude of tear-shaped cloves is all encompassing. It pours out of the pores and permeates the clothing, blocking out any efforts of soap and perfume. No one claims guilt for the stench because everyone is involved. And the affair with this prince of the pantry that causes pernicious results when added to delicate vegetables and fish is now accepted as part of America’s cuisine. Garlic festivals abound from Michigan’s northern peninsula east to Vermont and west to California with recipes that call for as many as 20 cloves to season everything from soup to ice cream.

Garlic is one of the world’s oldest herbs. It has been aligned with medicine and superstition since ancient times. Emperor Hung-ti of Hsia of the first Chinese dynasty (2205-1766 BC) cultivated the bulb as an antitoxin against poisonous plants. Louis Pasteur confirmed the anti-bacterial benefit of garlic in 1858 and Albert Schweitzer used it successfully to treat amoebic colitis. In Europe, it was worn around the neck as well as eaten as a protection against vampires. Assuming, of course, that vampires existed, one can’t be certain if it was the magical properties that thwarted evil or if the vampires simply refused to suck the blood of another creature with such atrocious breath.

Vampires or no vampires, modern medical evidence seems to be in favor of this smelly substance that presumes to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer, strokes and heart attacks, as well as treat bacterial and viral infections, and kill certain parasites. Europeans who lived in the late Middle Ages obviously kept a track record of folks whose stronger immune systems warded off the plague because of their consumption of garlic. Nutritionists and doctors now support past studies lauding the medicinal value of the bulb.

Garlic, like oysters and caviar, is an acquired taste for people of Nordic origins, probably because it once grew more prevalently in southern climates. In southern Spain, Sicily, Greece and the Middle East, it is virtually impossible to find any meat or sauce prepared without its infusion. During the Crusades, the herb found its way into middle Europe and France, where it was cultivated during the summer months, but Scandinavia continued to savor the natural flavors of the bounty that swam off its shores and grew in its soil, employing few embellishments other than a little sage, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and bay leaf, which were imported from Indonesia. One of the world’s most famous experts on cuisine, Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), described the air in Provence (historical region of southwest France on the Mediterranean) as being impregnated with the aroma of garlic. Garlic is the main seasoning in their most renowned seafood stew, Bouillabaisse, as well in all of their sauces.

Crush or chop garlic and set aside 10-15 minutes before cooking to allow its healing properties to develop. Store garlic in a well-ventilated cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate unless you separate the cloves and immerse them in oil, peeled or unpeeled. If the garlic isn’t peeled, the cloves will remain firm longer, but peeling will be more difficult. Fresh garlic which is held in open-air storage for any length of time will lose some of its pungency and may develop sprouts. The garlic is still usable.

Must garlic be peeled? Press each clove against the cutting board with the flat side of a heavy kitchen knife, or press between the thumb and forefinger to loosen the skin first. If the recipe calls for a large quantity of garlic, drop the cloves into boiling water for one minute. Drain quickly. They will peel easily. Or, microwave for five seconds before peeling.

Having grown up in Michigan where our families stemmed from German and Nordic heritage, our mothers engrained us with the edict, “Ladies should smell of perfume and flowers; not onions and garlic”. Some lessons are not easily discarded and, so, disposable plastic gloves to the rescue! Or, rub your fingers first with salt (Kosher or coarse sea salt are best) and then lemon juice. The one that seems to work best is to slightly wet your fingers and sprinkle with salt. Then rub with a stainless steel teaspoon under running water for a few seconds. There is a chemical reaction that removes the odor. Eat parsley for the breath or chew on a coffee bean or two.

To chop or press: Pressed (crushed) garlic doesn’t go as far because some of the pulp is lost. Hand chopped (minced) gives greater yield.

Tip: Add salt needed in the recipe into the minced garlic while it is on the cutting board. The salt will absorb the garlic juices making it easier to scoop the garlic up.

Garlic salt contains a blend of approximately ninety percent salt, nine percent garlic and one percent free-flowing agent. If you use garlic salt, do not add any salt until you taste.

Powdered Garlic is five times stronger than raw garlic. Its flavor is released when moisture is added.


8 cloves fresh garlic, mashed

½ pound butter or butter substitute, softened

Work garlic into softened butter. Form into logs and refrigerate or freeze, covered. Other herbs of choice may also be added.

Or, melt butter over very low heat. Peel and split garlic cloves. Simmer 45 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Skim off milk solids. Refrigerate.


Keep it handy in the refrigerator

1 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons brandy

10 cloves chopped garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, peeled

Gently boil all together 10-15 minutes. Cool. Blend in blender. Save in an airtight container to marinate chicken, shrimp or beef.


Hors d’oeuvre to spread on fresh warm bread or to add to cooked foods

Garlic head(s)

1 tablespoon olive oil for each head

1 teaspoon melted butter or butter substitute for each head

A sprinkling of salt and pepper

Optional: A touch of white pepper or cayenne

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Remove as much of the outer “tissue paper” white covering from the whole head.

3. Place head(s) in a covered baking dish or on a piece of heavy aluminum foil large enough to tent the garlic. Roll in oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and white pepper or Cayenne, if you like spice.

4. Cover dish or create an airtight tent with the foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until cloves are soft enough to squeeze from their skins.


Yield: 4-6 Servings

Quick and Easy

3-4 pound chicken, well washed, extra fat removed and cut into quarters

Salt and pepper to sprinkle

Paprika to sprinkle

¼ cup Heinz® or Bennett’s® Chili Sauce

¼ cup dry white wine or ginger ale

6 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1-2 onions, sliced thin on the round

4 tablespoons butter or butter substitute, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Cut chicken into quarters. Remove extra fat and wash pieces well, removing the blood deposits along the backbone. Dry on paper toweling before sprinkling with salt and pepper.

3. Combine chili sauce and wine (ginger ale) with the garlic cloves and spoon into the pan.

4. Peel and slice the onions and set over the sauce.

5. Set the chicken pieces over the onions and brush well with the melted butter. Sprinkle with paprika.

6. Roast 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Roast 30 minutes longer, or until brown and tender.


Not vegan

Yield: Approximately 8 Servings

6 cups vegetable broth (32 ounces Pacific®Organic Vegetable Broth in carton)

1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

15 cloves peeled and chopped garlic

Juice of ½ lime

⅓ cup toasted pine nuts (Set on foil and baked at 250°F for 10 minutes)

⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (eliminate if vegan)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 large ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

Extra Parmesan cheese to top

¼ cup toasted pine nuts to top

1. Bring to a boil: vegetable broth, basil leaves, chopped onion, garlic, and lime juice. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

2. Pour into a blender. Add toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese and blend. Return to soup pot.

3. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute. Peel under cool water. Remove seeds and chop coarse. Add to soup. Cook over low heat five minutes.

4. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and pine nuts sprinkled over the top.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Strawberry Time

Strawberry season has arrived in Lake County and, in defiance of too many freezing cold nights that threatened our citrus, vegetables and berries, they have not just survived; they are thriving. The berries at Oak Haven U-Pick are better than ever, succulent and juicy and sweet. The strawberry milk shakes and sundaes are absolutely sinful. And, the open pit fire is blazing in anticipation of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows when the children come in from their hay ride.

Farming berries is a science. First, the soil is worked. Then, an implement called a bedder is pulled by tractor through the field to gather soil to the center to create a firmly packed mound that rises eight inches above ground. Next, a separate implement called a plastic layer stretches a roll of plastic over the bed and covers the edges with dirt to hold it in place. Then, a hole puncher that looks like a wheel with spikes is pulled across to create perfect openings for the plants to grow through. After this, the bare root plants are set into the ground by hand. Each acre has the capability of producing eighteen thousand plants. This year, there are a total of 107,000 plants yielding several varieties of strawberries.

An easy test of a good berry is its aroma. If it smells like a strawberry, it will taste like a strawberry. As I walked the paths between the plants, the aroma drifted up like an aphrodisiac. Each brilliantly red berry was picture perfect. Most were enormous – the kind one looks for when dipping into chocolate or decorating desserts. Some are heart-shaped – perfect for Valentine’s Day. Karen Stoddard, co-owner of Oak Haven Farms with her husband, Harry, proudly handed out samples. “Taste one”, she urged. It took approximately thirty seconds to be coaxed. It burst with intense flavor. The aroma lingered in the air and on my fingers, which I unconsciously licked.

These luscious strawberries are, of course, best eaten freshly picked. How one enjoys them is a matter of preference. Regular cream and milk, heavy cream and ice cream, unflavored yogurt and sour cream accompany whole or sliced berries beautifully. Coat them with white or dark chocolate. (Eagle® or Hershey® Candy Coating at Publix or Wilton® Premium Chocolate coating in the party supply department at WalMart) Treat yourself to a refreshing smoothie by puréeing strawberries with milk or ice in a blender. (Add a banana for a healthy breakfast or snack) Bolster the berries with white rum and a squeeze of lemon in the blender for a wow of a cocktail picker-upper. From now until the end of April, Central Florida will harvest homegrown strawberries. Don’t miss out.

U-Pick? U-Bet!! Every chance I get!

Oak Haven Farms
32430 Avington Road
Sorrento, FL 32776
Phone: (352) 735-1996
Email: oakhavenfarms@embarqmail.com

Red Shed Strawberry Farm
18107 E. Apshawa Rd
Clermont, FL 34715
(407) 414-7497
Dec-May: Tues,Thurs,Sat: 10-3 pm


Yield: Approximately 6 cups

4 cups cleaned strawberries, sliced

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup unflavored yogurt

½ cup heavy cream

2 large peaches, peeled and finely diced (Canned peaches or mandarin oranges may be substituted out of season)

1. Place strawberries into a blender and purée. Remove to a bowl. Add sugar, lemon juice, yogurt and cream. Refrigerate until very cold. Stir in the peaches directly before serving.


Yield: 4 Servings

½ cup chopped strawberries

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange blossom honey

1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

Pinch salt

Mixed baby salad greens of choice

2 or more tablespoons toasted chopped pecans

Whole strawberries to garnish

8 thin slices Camembert or Brie or chunks of goat cheese

1. Remove stems and chop strawberries coarse

2. Combine lemon juice, honey and salt. Stir in strawberries to create strawberry dressing. Do this several hours in advance of serving. Refrigerate.

3. Divide cold salad greens on 4 plates. Spoon strawberry dressing over.

4. Sprinkle with pecans. Place 1 whole berry on to garnish.

5. Set 2 slices cheese on opposite edges of each plate.


Yield: 2 cups – 4-6 servings

5 extra large egg yolks

⅓ cup granulated sugar

⅛ teaspoon salt

3 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries

1. Separate eggs, making sure no white membrane remains around the yolks. Reserve the whites for meringue cookies and set yolks aside.

2. Combine sugar, salt and cornstarch and sift into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and stir to combine. Stir in remaining milk.

3. Strain the mixture into a saucepan.

4. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture is hot. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot mixture into the yolks before adding the yolks to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and smoothing with a wire whisk until thick. If mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat immediately.

5. Stir in vanilla and remove from the stove.

6. Spoon into red wine or champagne glasses and slice fresh strawberries over the top.

The secret of any custard is patience. The custard must not cook too quickly or it will burn and become lumpy.


Yield: 6-8 servings

1 pint ripe strawberries

⅓ cup fresh orange or tangerine juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 loaf unsliced bread, approximately 1 pound or less

1 quart whole milk

3 tablespoons melted butter

4 jumbo graded eggs

3 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

9 ½ X14 X 2 ½ inch baking dish

Cinnamon-sugar to sprinkle over the top (7 parts sugar to 3 parts cinnamon)

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.

2. Slice strawberries and toss with the juices

3. Slice bread thick and cut into cubes. Heat milk to the boiling point. Pour over the bread and let soak until soft.

4. Pour melted butter into the bottom of the baking pan.

5. Beat eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Stir into bread mixture. Pour into the buttered dish. Cover the top with the strawberry mixture. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar.

6. Bake 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean.

7. Serve with Lemon Cream on the side.


Yield: 2 cups

1 pint heavy cream for whipping

¼ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoon or more, grated lemon peel

¼ cup sour cream

1. Beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and grated peel and continue beating until thick.

2. Fold in the sour cream.

3. Refrigerate until very cold.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.