Garlands of garlic

Even after offering heads of garlic as lovely parting gifts to each visitor to my home in the last few weeks, I noticed last night that the bag of garlic The Hub brought home was still about half full. I combed through my cookbooks on Sunday, determined to make a dent in the sack.

The result: Garlic soup, based on a recipe from “Soup: A Way of Life” by Barbara Kafka (Artisan, 1998) with my additions. The crucial part of this soup, as Kafka writes, is cooking the garlic cloves very slowly until they’re pillowy soft. Do not let them come anywhere near brown. I left them whole in the finished soup, but I suppose you could puree them. A little coconut milk might be interesting, too.

Garlic Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 heads garlic, peeled and sliced in half (remove any green part in the center and discard)

1 (3-inch) stalk lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise

About 1/2 cup chicken broth (I used the broth from cooking the chicken in the microwave)

2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1/2 to 1 serrano chile, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

About 2 cups baby spinach

Salt to taste

About a cup of cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a large pot over low – and I mean low – heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the garlic is silky and translucent. Do not let it brown. Do not be tempted to raise the heat. Add 9 cups of water, the chicken broth and the lemongrass and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Add the chile, shredded chicken, lime juice, spinach and cilantro. Cover and simmer on low heat for a few minutes, until the cilantro and spinach wilt a little. Taste and add salt as desired. Remove the lemongrass before serving.


Vampire repellent?

Some employees get bonuses, use of the company car or fruit baskets. The Hub came home with this gift from his boss: Two and a half pounds of garlic, which was raised on the boss’ farm.

All six people there today received a bag, so he must have had a “Twilight”-level crop.

Two and a half pounds of garlic… There are at least 40 heads in this bag. I know what the trick-or-treaters coming to my house this year are getting.

Wings up for the playoffs!

The home-state team isn’t in the NFL playoffs, but I’m thrilled to see the New Orleans Saints as one of the final four still playing for a Super Bowl spot. (I was pulling for the San Diego Chargers and quarterback Phillip Rivers, formerly of N.C. State University, but no luck there.)

Why New Orleans? It feels good for the city to have something to cheer about after all it has been through and is still struggling with. And my real interest: Food. If the Saints make to to the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, that will mean a great theme for party menus. Jambalaya, gumbo, bread pudding, and the wonderful food goes on and on.

But the team has to get there first. And viewers need to be well fed for the marathon of football-watching on Jan. 24. Wings are the classic choice of hungry sports fans everywhere. They’re easy to make, whether fiery hot or mild-but-flavorful.

As I found out when writing my cookbook, “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) the weeks coming up to the Super Bowl is the biggest time of year for wings sales, so shop before your supermarket runs out. It’s easy to save a little money by cutting up the wings yourself. Simply cut at the two joints with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Put the little pointy ends – technically called the flappers – in a bag in the freezer for making chicken broth later on.

This wing recipe from my book is plenty hot, but if you want more flame, increase the amount of the Thai chili-garlic sauce. Look for the sauce in Asian markets or in well-stocked supermarkets.

Tangy Thai Wings

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons Thai chili-garlic sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 teaspoons honey

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

Combine the oil, lime juice, garlic sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and honey in a bowl and stir until the honey is dissolved.

Place the wings in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the giner mixture over the wings and shake to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove the wings from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the wings on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Recipe from “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” by Debbie Moose (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)

Google vs. dead trees


I needed information on the differences between conventional garlic and elephant garlic, plus to check on the best ways to store both. Of course, I went to Google. After slogging through listing after listing of places selling garlic, garlic plants and garlic products, and dubious information, I picked up a book by my desk.

“The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst (Barron’s $29.99) arrived a few weeks ago, but the book is an old friend. Previous paperback editions of this dictionary/encyclopedia of food have been old friends for years. This glitzy, new hardback version includes more than 6,700 entries plus expanded information on cooking techinques, meat cuts and more, along with illustrations.

In seconds I found out that elephant garlic is a relative of the leek, grown mainly in California and is the mildest tasting garlic. Also, store garlic in a cool, dark place in an open container, never in the refrigerator.

Score one for the dead-tree technology.