5 posts tagged with “garlic”

  • Sopa de Ajo: Cold medicine in a bowl

    The recipe for Sopa de Ajo in this post is an updated version of one posted previously to this site.

    My cat Louie has to go to a cardiologist.

    I don’t blame you if you guffawed at that, chortled, snorted or simply smiled. I’m convinced that’s just a fancy way of saying “Really expensive vet.”

    But my boy is sick. He had a cardiac event over the holidays and lost so much weight I could feel the sharp edges of his spine. He was far from his curious and engaged self. We need to figure out what exactly happened to a guy I’ve dubbed my editor since freelancing full-time.

    Louie, who literally showed up on our doorstep — I looked out the back door eight years and saw his big grey noggin and tenuous look — often joins me at the kitchen table during my workday writing sessions. He’ll curl up on the chair next to mine or he’ll sleep in my lap as I type.

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  • Peach Tree
  • An odoriferous elixir: Sopa de Ajo

    A head of German white garlic. 

    All chances at a social life have been kyboshed for me for the next while.

    It doesn’t help that I’m a vector of illness thanks to a bug roosting quite comfortably in my sinuses and chest. But the real reason I’m doubtful that even my co-workers will want to sit with me at lunch this week is because of where I’ve turned for comfort and, I hope, a cure for what ails me.

    I get lazy when I’m sick and my work in the kitchen usually amounts to little more than cracking an egg into some vegetable broth and sipping. Sounds effortless but when all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position and pull the covers over your head, egg drop soup may as well be Christmas dinner. It still feels like work.

    I was just about to resort to my usual get-well-soon concoction when I got inspired by a bowl sitting on my counter, full of garlic from my garden, CSA baskets and impulse buys from the Niagara Local Food Co-op. With quirky names like music, Susan Delafield, Leningrad and German white, the papery heads are also natural muses in the kitchen. Mostly, it was garlic’s healing, anti-microbial properties that really piqued my interest in that moment.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Going back to the start

    My Inukshuk marks where I can plant in the spring.

    I pressed my heavy rubber-booted foot onto the top of my garden spade with a heavy heart today.

    I was uprooting the last of my plants from my summertime refuge; calling it quits on a garden that, for me, was a success.

    It was once home to an Amazonian eight-foot pink ruffled zapotec tomato plant, providing me with jewel-toned beauties for stuffing and, unfortunately, some meals for some burrowing bugs. I think they actually ate more tomatoes than I did, but who’s counting?

    My garden also had prolific pepper plants: dark purple Pinot Noir and incredibly sweet gypsies. My shepherd pepper grew tall and strong but only gave me three long, slender fruits, aborting many blooms in the process. My naga jalokias, deemed the world’s hottest peppers, never materialized, though they teased me with blossoms and bushy branches.

    Still, compared to last year’s dismal results of five tomatoes, total, from my six tomato plants and lots of Swiss chard (a star again this year, too), the 2010 edition of my garden was an overwhelming success thanks to that maiden of meteorology, Mother Nature, being a little less of a wet blanket.

    That’s why I wasn’t ready to let go, despite the thermometer telling me even last week that it was time — that if I didn’t act soon and remove that bountiful Pinot Noir pepper to take inside, every gardener’s worst enemy, Jack Frost, would have his way with it and he wouldn’t be kind.

    I had already pulled my tomato plant and emptied some of my containers, which produced mixed results. (My container kale was a disappointment). My garden removal has been a process done in stages so as not to be a total downer and shock to the system. With only a few stragglers left in my sandy soil, today was the last day before my patch of veggie and flower goodness returned to a barren swath ready to be blanketed with snow.

    But as I put my weight on the shovel, the spade slicing easily through the moist earth like a hot knife through butter, I realized that while it was the end for some plants that had called my garden home for the summer, it was actually the beginning for others.

    With a clean slate before me, I started envisioning what would go where next year. The corner closest to my patio was perfect for peppers. The spot directly in front of willow shrub that grew like a weed this year was perfect for tomatoes. My chard, well, that would line my stepping stones again next year.

    My garden, cleared and ready for spring. 


    I also broke out my garlic cloves and planted 12, double what I did last year. I moved my Inkushuk to the end of the rows so come spring, I would remember where I could start planting again without posing a safety risk to what is really my favourite crop. There is nothing I love more than fresh garlic. It’s pungent and oily and makes the most beautiful crunching noise when I lay a knife blade on top of a clove and smack it.

    As I dropped each aromatic seed clove into the ground, my sense of melancholy over clearing out what had been my version of heaven was replaced by the optimism of what next summer, a blank slate, and another season’s promise hold.

    Only 21 weeks until spring…

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  • Peach Tree
  • Scapes can’t escape me

    They are a gourmet delight and one of those uncommon items I would never have eaten had it not been for Linda stashing them into one of my first CSA baskets five years ago.

    Garlic scapes — that stalk from growing garlic that shoots straight up and makes one or two loops before being lopped off. Some garlic growers consider it waste; to keep it on the plant would mean all of the garlic’s energy going into the scape or flower, instead of the bulbous root of which bad breath but wonderful aromatic flavours are made. Others, like Linda, see it for what it really is: Food.

    Scapes start rearing their lithe, curly selves right about now. Their season is so short that while once a clueless scape neophyte (I guess you could call me a scape goat of sorts, being fed all these unusual veggies by Linda), I now clap with delight when Linda puts some in my CSA basket and smack my lips at the thought of their mild, garlicky flavour. They are also really quite beautiful to behold with their smooth green skin, curvy shape and tapered tops — just another one of nature’s often under-rated and misunderstood masterpieces.

    The long, snaky, firm green strands are delicious made into pesto, chopped into a stir-fry or, done in my favourite way, sauteed.

    Being more than a little green with garlic scapes five years ago, I relied on Linda’s recipe cards to guide me with this unusual, new discovery. To this day, this is still one of my favourite side dishes to make:

    Cut scapes to green bean length
    Melt some butter in a skillet
    Add the chopped scapes
    Saute about 7 minutes
    Add a splash of Balsamic vinegar at the last minute of cooking.

    The heat seems to caramelize the vinegar, adding a subtle layer of sweetness to the scapes, whose flavour becomes even milder and their texture even softer as they’re cooked. If I’m using my usual unsalted goat’s milk butter, I will sprinkle a bit of salt on them at the end. They don’t stay long on my plate once served up. Truth is, many don’t even make it to my plate.  My mouth tends to get in the way as I transfer the scapes from stovetop to tabletop.

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