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 11”

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal (photo above), the chef of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, UK, is known for his molecular gastronomy. He also pioneered flavor pairing of complimentary but unique ingredients. One of his pairings is garlic and coffee. This roasted garlic ice cream with a coffee-garlic swirl was inspired by that pairing.

Roasted Garlic and Coffee Ice Cream
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
2 heads garlic, roasted and pureed
1/4 cup dark roast coffee beans
2 tbsp honey
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped Garlic-Coffee Brittle (see Below)

1. Combine the cream, milk, garlic, coffee, and honey in saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 1 hour. Strain into a clean saucepan and return to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Mix egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in bowl. Whisk a ladleful of the garlic-cream mixture into the yolks until smooth. Return this to the saucepan and simmer until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 6 minutes. Strain through a wire mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate in a covered container for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.

3. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the garlic-coffee brittle. Pack into freezer containers and let the ice cream ripen in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving. If the ice cream has been frozen longer than 6 hours, transfer it to the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Garlic-Coffee 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.

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
1/3 cup coarsely cracked dark roast or espresso coffee beans.

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 coffee beans 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.

Garlic: An Edible Biography “T minus 12”

Garlic Card

The above picture is from a greeting card I picked up in London. (The card can be personalized which is why it says “Name,” but you get the gist.)

As George Orwell once wrote of his countrymen: ”England and the English as a rule, they will refuse even to sample a foreign dish, they regard such things as garlic and olive oil with disgust, life is unlivable to them unless they have tea and puddings.” British vacationers who visited Spain in the 1950s and 1960s would take over the kitchens of their hotels in order to make traditional British foods like Shepherd’s Pie because they were so appalled with the local food in which everything was, horror of horrors, swimming in garlic.

Today, tapas restaurants are popular in London and this simple shrimp recipe, from the book, is one of my favorites. Serve it with crusty bread to soap up the “swimming in garlic” juices.

Gambas al Ajillo

Makes 4 appetizer serving or 2 main course servings

4 oz olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup cognac
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Increase the heat to high and immediately add the shrimp, cognac, lemon juice, and paprika. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and the edges curl, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Serve the shrimp on heated appetizer plates topped with the pan juices spooned over the shrimp and sprinkled with parsley.

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

Happy Batman Day!

Batman vs. Dracula

WHAM! THWACK! POW! It’s been 75 years since The Caped Crusader started saving Gotham City from the Joker, the Penguin, and … Dracula? In the 2005 straight-to-video animated movie, The Batman vs. Dracula, Bruce Wayne invites Dr. Alucard to a party. He shows him one of Wayne Industries’ latest advances, the SL-5 which collects and stores solar energy as true sunlight. Alucard grimaces as garlic shrimp hors d’oeuvres are served but scarfs down steak tartare.

When Wayne and Alucard meet as their alter-egos, Batman and Dracula, Batman saves Vicky Vale from being turned into a vampire with garlic bombs and just as Dracula realizes that Batman is Bruce Wayne, Batman turns on the SL-5 filling the bat cave with sunlight. He quips, “and you are dust” as the sunlight causes Dracula to disintegrate.

Here’s a recipe for garlic shrimp from my upcoming book, Garlic: An Edible Biography. (The awesome recipe was developed by Mary Deir Donovan.)

If you want a Garlic Bomb, got to Jake’s Sandwich Board in Philadelphia where they serve a Philly Steak Sandwich topped with garlic spread, sautéed garlic, provolone cheese, and crunchy, deep-friend garlic cloves. (If you want to try your own, I also included Mary’s recipe for Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Garlic Cloves which can be served on their own as an appetizer accompanied with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping, or as a garnish in salads, soups, or stews.

Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
Makes 4 appetizer serving or 2 main course servings

4 oz olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup cognac
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Increase the heat to high and immediately add the shrimp, cognac, lemon juice, and paprika. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and the edges curl, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Serve the shrimp on heated appetizer plates topped with the pan juices spooned over the shrimp and sprinkled with parsley.

Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Garlic Cloves
Serve these crispy, nutty garlic cloves on their own as an appetizer accompanied with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping, or use them as a garnish in salads, soups, or stews.

Makes 1 pound

1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beer, room temperature
1 lb garlic cloves, peeled

1. To make the batter: Whisk the flour, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add the beer and whisk until smooth. The batter can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance. Place in a container, cover tightly, and keep in the refrigerator. Stir to recombine before using the batter to coat the garlic.

2. Preheat a deep-fryer to 350 degrees or heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep, heavy-gauge pot over medium heat. Use a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature; another temperature check is to add a 1 inch cube of bread to the oil. It should brown within 30 seconds when the oil is at 350°F.

3. Add about one-fourth of the garlic cloves to the batter and stir to coat them evenly. Lift the garlic out of the batter with a spider or a fork, allowing the excess batter to drain back into the bowl. Lower into the hot oil. Cook until the batter is puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Lift the fried garlic out of the oil and drain briefly on paper towel. Keep warm while frying the remaining garlic.

4. Serve the garlic at once.

Happy Birthday Kevin Bacon!

Kevin Bacon
Thank you for the great movies and the great parlor game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (By the way, today is also Anjelica Huston’s birthday. In Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, Huston has a Bacon number of 2. She was in Addams Family Values with Chris Ellis who was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon.)

I’ve been enjoying grilled Caesar Salad this summer — split heads of romaine are grilled outside and drizzled with dressing. Here the grilled lettuce is topped with a rich mustardy Roasted Garlic-Bacon Vinaigrette.

Grilled Romaine with Roasted Garlic-Bacon Vinaigrette
1 head roasted garlic, chopped
4 bacon slices, chopped
1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
2 T. minced shallots
1 T. dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon or 3/4 tsp. dried
1/4 c. olive oil
6 heads of Romaine

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut off the top 1/4” of the garlic head. Set the garlic, cut side up, in the center of a piece of foil large enough to wrap around the garlic head. Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil. Pull the corners of the foil in to the center, make a pouch around the garlic, and twist the top to secure the pouch closed. Place the foil pouch in a small baking dish or pan. Roast the garlic until the cloves are soft and any juices are brown, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to touch, chop garlic and transfer to medium bowl.

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Pour drippings into medium bowl. Roughly chop bacon. Add vinegar, shallot, mustard, honey, molasses and tarragon. Whisk to blend. Add roasted garlic, bacon and olive oil and whisk to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut head of romaine in half. Remove loose outer leaves. Drizzle cut side with olive oil. Grill cut side down over medium heat until lightly wilted, about two minutes. Serve lettuce on a platter drizzled with roasted garlic-bacon vinaigrette.

Happy Birthday Larry David!

Larry David

In the “Palestinian Chicken” episode of Curb your Enthusiasm, Larry and Jeff enjoy the roasted chicken at the Al-Abbas restaurant despite the fact that the restaurant is decorated with pro-Palestine posters. David says that if the chicken was sent to Israel, “they’d take down all the settlements immediately.”

The comedian sent a copy of the episode to Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz who forwarded it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the suggestion that he invite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over to watch it together. Dershowitz said, “Maybe if they both get a good laugh, they can begin a negotiating process.” Alas, this did not happen.

Zankou Chicken, a famous Armenian-Lebanese roast chicken restaurant in LA, was the inspiration for the fictional Al-Abbas. The restaurant is widely known for its amazing white garlic sauce called toum which for some reason is not mentioned in the episode. The following recipe is a close approximation of Zankou’s “secret sauce.” Toum is Arabic for garlic and in addition to chicken, this sauce is good on meat, fish, roasted vegetables … everything really.

Zankou’s Garlic Sauce (Toum)
3 small russet potatoes, peeled
1 head of garlic (12-14 cloves)
1/3 c. of fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. salt
1/2 c. canola oil

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, then mash to a smooth consistency. Allow to cool.

Place the peeled garlic cloves, salt and half of the lemon juice in a blender or food processor.

With the machine on, slowly stream the oil into the mixture until it combines into a smooth consistency.

Pour the garlic “mayonnaise” into a bowl. Add the mashed potatoes 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until it’s the consistency of loose, mashed potatoes. Stir in the remaining lemon juice.

Cover the bowl, and chill the sauce completely. Before serving, return the sauce to room temperature and add salt to taste.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, George Orwell

Orwell - Dan

Today Brits enjoy garlic and are known for spectacular food, but that wasn’t always the case, as Orwell (ne George Blair) illustrated in this 1944 quote about the English: “As a rule they will refuse even to sample a foreign dish, they regard such things as garlic and olive oil with disgust, life is unlivable to them unless they have tea and puddings.”

Celebrate the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm with this recipe for Garlic Bread Pudding. Note: The drawing of Orwell is by my friend Dan Baxter who does great illustrations on antique maps. His prints are available on etsy at DanielBaxterArt.

Garlic Bread Pudding

2 c. milk
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 t. red chili flakes
2 T. minced parsley
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 1/2 c. 1/2-inch cubes of Italian bread

In a saucepan, scald the milk with the garlic, let the mixture stand off the heat for 15 minutes.

In a bowl whisk together the whole eggs and the yolks, add the milk in a stream, whisking, and stir in the chili flakes, parsley, salt and pepper.

Divide the bread cubes among 8 well-buttered 1/3-cup muffin tins, ladle the custard mixture over them, dividing it evenly, and let the bread puddings stand for 10 minutes.

The puddings may be prepared up to this point 8 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled. Bake the puddings in a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 minutes, or until they are golden brown and puffed. Let the puddings cool for 10 minutes (they will sink as they cool).

Run a thin knife around the side of each pudding, and lift the puddings out carefully with a fork. Serve warm.

Thank You Marcella Hazan!

Garlic Scented Tomato Salad
The cooking world lost one of its greats today when Marcella Hazan passed away at the age of 89. Hazan taught millions of Americans how to prepare the simple fresh food of Italy at a time when our idea of Italian food was a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee’s Beef Ravioli.

Hazan had this to say about garlic in her 2004 cookbook “Marcella Says …” “The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking. It must remain a shadowy background presence. It cannot take over the show.”

I had the extraordinary pleasure of taking cooking classes with Marcella’s son, Giuliano in Verona, Italy a few years ago. He is doing a wonderful job of carrying on his mother’s legacy. We toured food markets, learned about wine, cooked our dinner, and had an all-around great time. My condolences to the family. I made this tomato salad perfumed with garlic to honor Marcella Hazan. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the end of the season’s fantastic tomatoes and honor a great lady.

Garlic-Scented Tomato Salad
4 to 5 garlic cloves
1-2 t. salt (or more to taste)
2 T. choice quality red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
2 lbs. fresh, ripe, firm, round or plum tomatoes
1 dozen fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Peel the garlic cloves and mash them hard with a knife handle. Put them in a small bowl or saucer together with 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Stir and let steep at least 20 minutes.

Skin the tomatoes raw, you can blanch them quickly then plunge them into ice water so they don’t cook, then slice them into thin slices and spread the slice out in a deep serving platter.

When ready to serve the salad wash the basil leaves in cold water, shake off their moisture and tear them into 2 or 3 pieces each and sprinkle them over the tomatoes.

Pour the garlic steeped vinegar through a wire strainer, distributing it over the tomatoes. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the tomatoes well, toss, taste and correct if necessary for salt and vinegar.