April is National Garlic Month — that’s not an April Fool’s joke and neither is this news from the UK that a 10th century recipe for infections that includes garlic may kill the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA. MRSA is one of the dangerous bacterial infections christened “nightmare superbugs” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s often found in hospitals where it has the potential to weaken those whose immune systems are already compromised.
The medieval recipe, found by Christina Lee, an Anglo-Saxon expert at the University of Nottingham, called for two species of allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine, and bile from a cow’s stomach. When MRSA was exposed to the mixture, it obliterated the infection killing 999 out of 1,000 bacterial cells.
I apologize for the awkward transition but … To get your garlic (without cow bile), try this recipe for harissa, a hot chili paste that’s used in the North African cuisines of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. It can be added to vinaigrettes, soups, pasta, grain dishes, sandwiches, and marinades for fish, meat, and poultry. Makes 1 cup
6 oz dried red chiles (e.g., cayenne or chile de arbol)
12 garlic cloves peeled
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground caraway seeds
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing
1. Combine the chiles, garlic, ground coriander, cumin, caraway, and salt in a food processor and pulse the machine on and off until the mixture is a coarse paste.
2. Add the cilantro to the food processor, close the lid, and, and with the processor running, pour the oil in a thin stream through the feed tube. Continue to process just until you have fine smooth paste.
3. Harissa lasts for 2 weeks (or more). Place in a jar. Cover with a layer of oil. Close the jar tightly and store in the refrigerator. Replace the layer of oil each time you use some.