Category Archives: Uncategorized

Georgia on my Mind

Okay, the headline is a ridiculous cliche but my hiking trip to Georgia was another extraordinary experience in which I once again demonstrated that I am a horrible, but enthusiastic, hiker. Georgia is unbelievably beautiful and Georgian food is justifiably renowned — all of the best restaurants in the former Soviet Union were Georgian. Გემრიელად მიირთვით (That’s bon appetit in Georgian).

Turkey Satsivi

The garlic walnut sauce which accompanies this turkey dish was a favorite of Russian dictator (and Georgia’s native son) Joseph Stalin. It’s ridiculously labor-intensive, but delicious. This recipe is from Food52.

3 to 3-1/2 pounds turkey, cut into portions

4 sprigs of parsley

1 bay leaves

3 tablespoons butter

3 large onions, finely chopped

3 tablespoons flour

4-6 cups stock (reserved from cooking turkey)

3-1/2 cups raw walnuts

10 cloves of garlic

1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 small dry chili

pepper and salt to taste

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Put turkey in a pot, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, skim the foam that rises to the surface, reduce heat, add 1/2 tbsp salt, a few sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. If using turkey with bones and skin, remove from stock, place in a roasting pan, and put in 350 degree oven to roast for about 15 minutes or so. Set aside.

Chop onions. Melt butter in a skillet over low-medium heat. Saute onions until very soft, but still lightly yellow. Stir frequently to prevent browning and burning.

While onions are cooking, combine walnuts, garlic, cilantro and all spices and salt in a blender. Add about 1 cup of stock from cooking chicken and process into a paste. If too coarse to process, add a bit more stock as needed. Add flour to the cooked onions, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the skillet. When all flour becomes translucent and coats the onions well, add 2-3 cups of stock. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with wooden spoon, and stir well, until smooth. Heat through and allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes, until onions are almost dissolved.

Add walnut paste to the skillet, stir very well, adding more stock if needed, until the sauce is about buttermilk consistency and smooth, simmer for 2-3 minutes or so after bringing to a boil. Return the sauce to the blender and process yet again to get silky texture. This step is optional, if you like creamier texture.

Pour the sauce back into the skillet (no heat). Mix egg yolks with a little bit of the sauce, and slowly pour back into skillet. Stir well. Add vinegar, stir and let set for a few minutes.Taste the sauce and adjust salt if necessary.


Girl vs. Lebanon

With scant knowledge and even less preparation, I signed up to thru-hike the Lebanese Mountain Trail (LMT), a 30-day, 292-mile trek that traverses the length of the country.  Thru-hiking, the end-to-end hike of a trail, has a well-earned reputation as a fulfilling, yet challenging, endeavor.  As CleverHiker’s Dave Collins describes it, “Completing a thru-hike will be one of the most profoundly rewarding achievements of your life … it’ll also be tough as hell and you’ll wish you were dead.”  That pretty much sums it up. 

The photo above is the cedar tree on the Lebanese flag. It was taken on April 23 which gives you a sense of the weather we encountered. It was one of the best, and most challenging, things I’ve ever done. One of the highlights was the amazing food we were served in guest houses, hotels, and monasteries. In honor of one of my favorite countries in the world, here’s a recipe for Lebanese roasted garlic hummus from my book.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

2 c. chickpeas, cooked or canned, rinsed and drained

1 head garlic, roasted and pureed

1/4 c. warm water

2 tbsp tahini

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 c. Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Chopped parsley for garnish

Paprika, for garnish

Za’atar, for garnish

Combine the chickpeas, garlic, warm water, tahini, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor.  Puree until the mixture is smooth and light.  Adjust the consistency bu adding either a little water or lemon juice.  The hummus can be stored at this point in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 day

To serve:  Allow the hummus to come to room temperature.  Spoon it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley, paprika, and/or za’atar.  Accompany the hummus with crudités, pita or other flatbreads, or crackers.

The Know-Nothings

donald-trump-grow-upAs I look forward to transitioning this blog from garlic to life and travel, here’s some information about a political party that had its convention in Philadelphia in 1856.  (I discovered this while researching a story on where to eat and drink in Philadelphia and Cleveland during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions for Wine Enthusiast — I’ll post a link when it’s finished and published).

In the late 1850’s, the American Whig party fell apart as members took opposite sides on the issue of slavery. While some former Whigs like Abraham Lincoln joined the newly formed Republican Party, others joined an anti-immigrant nativist party that became as the “Know-Nothings” since members refused to discuss their beliefs or party affiliation with outsiders.

The Know-Nothing party goal was to “purify” American politics by limiting the influence of immigrants and Catholics. The Know-Nothings fared poorly in the 1856 election and soon disappeared as a force in American politics. Let’s hope that in 2016, Donald Trump and his Know-Nothings follow suit.

Happy National Garlic Month!

medieval garlic

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.

Garlic: An Edible Biography is Here!!!

Garlic Book Cover

Garlic: An Edible Biography is on bookshelves today. In its honor, here’s my favorite recipe from the book: Garlic Brittle and Chocolate Chip Cookies. I made them in London and they were very popular. These cookies don’t scream “garlic;” instead, the flavor comes on gradually making the garlic a “mystery” ingredient. The extra sugar from the brittle chunks makes these cookies spread a bit, so be sure to leave plenty of room between them as they bake.

Garlic-Pecan Brittle
The trick with a brittle is to have everything ready and at the right temperature before you start cooking the brittle. Cooked sugar is always extremely hot, so be sure to protect your hands and arms and always pour away from yourself. This brittle makes a great confection on its own, plain or dipped in chocolate, or sprinkled over ice cream. Makes about 12 ounces

½ cup garlic cloves, blanched and peeled
1 cup sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick silpat, parchment, or wax paper.

2. Chop the garlic coarsely and set aside.

3. Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300°F (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer and is a rich golden brown.

4. Immediately remove from the heat and add butter, vanilla and salt, stirring until the butter melts and is completely emulsified into the sugar. Add the garlic and pecans and stir to coat completely.

5. Working quickly and carefully, scrape the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the pan so it flows into an even layer and after it has cooled for a minute or two, use a metal or silicon spatula to spread it into an even layer. Let the brittle cool completely, at least 1 hour, and then break into chunks.

NOTE: Blanch the garlic to remove any bitterness. Put desired amount of garlic in a pot and cover with cold water.Bring water to a boil. Once water boils, strain garlic and add it back to the pot. Cover with cold water, and repeat previous steps for a total of three times.

Garlic Brittle and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped Garlic-Pecan Brittle

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in bowl.

3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl to blend evenly.

4. By hand or on low speed, blend in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and garlic brittle.

5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving at least 3 inches between the cookies.

6. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Fun in London with Simon and Carolyn

Roasted Chicken

The countdown was a little off so I’m going to step away from it until Tuesday which will be Election Day and one week until the book comes out. Since I’m still in London with Simon and Carolyn and Simon is Scottish, I thought I’d share a Scottish tale — any comparison between Simon and Tobias Smollett is at your own judgement.

Tobias Smollett, a Scottish satirical writer (and a bit of misanthrope) traveling in France in 1763, noted, “In this country I was almost poisoned with garlic, which they mix in their ragouts, and all their sauces, nay, the smell of it perfumes the very chambers, as well as every person you approach.” In the writer’s picaresque tale, Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, a gentleman sits down to a plate of roast chicken, but when it is set before him tears ran down his cheeks and he shrieked, “Zounds! This is the essence of a whole bed of garlic.” Here’s a re-post of Ford Madox Ford’s chicken roasted over 2 pounds (Zounds!) of blanched garlic.

Poulet Béarnaise

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 cup olive oil
One 4- to 5-lb chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lb garlic cloves (about 14 heads), blanched and peeled
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Truss the chicken (see Note) and season it all over with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Brown the chicken in the oil, turning to cook evenly on all sides, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; stuff the cavity with about one fourth of the blanched garlic

3. Return the pan to medium heat and add more oil if necessary. Add the remaining garlic cloves and stir to coat evenly olive oil. Transfer to a baking dish to make an even bed. Set the chicken on top of the garlic.

4. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add more oil if necessary. Add the potatoes and brown them lightly on all sides, turning as necessary. Transfer the potatoes to the baking dish around the chicken. Cover the baking dish and bake until the chicken is cooked through (165°F), about 1 ½ hours.

5. Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before carving into pieces to serve. Accompany with the potatoes and garlic and spoon the pan juices over each serving.

Garlic: An Edible Biography “T minus 9”

Garlic Cocktail

Flu and cold season is coming so I thought I’d offer some garlic remedies. Garlic vodka is a popular anti-flu remedy in Russia. To make it, a bulb of garlic is finely chopped and added to a pint of vodka. The drink should be stirred up twice a day and infused for at least 21 days. This is not a beverage but a medicine and it’s recommended that those afflicted take 10 to 20 drops of garlic vodka, twice a day.

Another popular cold remedy is garlic-honey syrup. (Honey soothes the throat and reduces coughing.) Chop up a whole bulb of garlic and place it in a glass jar. Cover with half a cup of raw honey. Let sit for at least three (but preferably twenty-four) hours. Take one teaspoon of the syrup every hour, as needed. (If the syrup is too strong for your taste, add some soy sauce and you have a lovely marinade for chicken or meat.)

Photo Credit:

Garlic: An Edible Biography (T minus 10)


Happy Halloween. While it seems logical to do a vampire post, vampires are not especially active on Halloween. Their most active times are the eves of two religious holidays: the Feast of St. George (May 4) and the Feast of St. Andrew (November 23). Nonetheless, here’s a photo from garlic-lover Mel Brooks’ much lambasted 1995 film Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Brooks had many “garlic moments.” In the classic comedy routine, The 2,000-Year-Old Man, Brooks is the title character and his good friend Carl Reiner is interviewing him. When Reiner asks Brooks how he has been able to live so long, he says, “It’s simple. I eat garlic. I’ve eaten it with every meal for 2,000 years. Whenever the Angel of Death came for me, I looked him right in the eye and said, “Whoooo are youuuu? The garlic on my breath always sent him packing.”

Brooks also outs Reiner as a garlic eater. Reiner was part of the tribute when Brooks received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Addressing his friend, Brooks asks, “Carl, did you have garlic for breakfast this morning? Folks, I don’t know what it is, but this man has been my friend for sixty years, and he always reeks of garlic, but I love him anyway.

Brooks later said of his own longevity: “Eat plenty of garlic so the angel of death won’t kiss you. Eat pounds of garlic.”

Brooks’ parents’ families were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, but I don’t have a Polish or Ukrainian recipe in the book so I’m including a recipe for a traditional Jewish Sabbath dinner in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. As Bukhara is landlocked, the dish is usually prepared with freshwater fish like trout, pike, or catfish.

Bukharian Fried Fish with Cilantro-Garlic Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Garlic-Cilantro Sauce
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

2 pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets or steaks
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Vegetable oil as needed for frying

1. To make the garlic-cilantro sauce: Combine the garlic, salt, ½ cup water, and cilantro in a food processor and process to a fine puree. Season with additional salt if necessary and set aside.

2. Arrange the fish fillets or steaks in a single layer in a deep platter or pan. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1/2 cup water to make a brine and pour over the fish. Refrigerate the fish in the brine for about 20 minutes. Drain the brine from the fish and pat completely dry with paper towels.

3. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the fish and fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Blot the fish briefly on paper towels and then transfer to a serving platter or individual plates. Top the fish with the garlic-cilantro sauce and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Garlic: An Edible Biography: “T minus 13”

Garlic 13

Garlic: An Edible Biography will be released in 13 days (on November. 11). The book has over 100 recipes and in honor of its release, I’m going to publish a recipe (and a story or quote) a day.

Since I’m in England, I’ll quote Elizabeth David who’s credited with introducing Mediterranean food to the British. The prickly David once said, The grotesque prudishness and archness with which garlic is treated in this country has led to the superstition that rubbing the bowl with it before putting the salad in gives sufficient flavour. It rather depends whether you’re going to eat the bowl or the salad.”

I think David would approve of this creamy garlic salad dressing.

Creamy Garlic Dressing

Makes 1 ½ cups

1 large egg yolk
1/3 c. white balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the egg yolk, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a bowl or a mini-food processor. While whisking or with the machine running, gradually add the olive oil and blend until the vinaigrette is combined and thickened. Taste and adjust with additional salt and pepper to taste.

The dressing is ready to use now. It can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Shake or whisk well to recombine before serving. If you’re concerned about using a raw yolk, substitute 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.

Photo Credit: Food Under Foot

PS. I’m a day late so expect another post to follow shortly.

Happy Birthday Virgo(s)

Sophie Dahl

Marco Polo, Agatha Christie, Tommy Lee Jones, and Prince Harry. Today offered an embarrassment of birthdays but I’m going to go with Sophie Dahl, the beautiful former model who is now an actress, author, and chef. She’s also the granddaughter of author Roald Dahl and the inspiration for the protagonist Sophie in his book, The BFG (for Big Friendly Giant).

This recipe for roasted tomato, thyme, and garlic soup from her book, The Delicious Miss Dahl, is perfect for an early fall day when tomatoes are still plentiful (but not for long!)

Roasted Tomato and Thyme Soup

4½ lb. large ripe plum tomatoes, halved
1 garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
2 large red onions, peeled, quartered
few sprigs fresh thyme
1 T. superfine sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
9 oz vegetable stock (optional)
3½ oz. light cream (optional)
few drops Worcestershire sauce (optional)
few drops balsamic vinegar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the tomatoes, garlic, onions, and thyme into a large roasting tin and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with the oil, and roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Mash the garlic with the back of a fork, and discard the skin. Tip the roasted tomatoes and onions into a food processor along with the mashed garlic, and pulse until smooth. If the soup is too thick, pour into a large saucepan and loosen the mixture with either vegetable stock or cream. Add a little Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar, to season, if you like.

NOTE: Dahl’s recipe calls for golden caster sugar, a pale, superfine brown sugar made from unrefined sugar cane. It’s pretty rare outside the UK so I substituted superfine sugar (but I’m sure regular white sugar would work too).

Sophie Dahl 2