packing a wallop

There is so much I want to write about that I almost feel tongue tied. I want to talk about our absolutely perfect July picnic to our favorite beach spot. And about how I just now learned to dry roast garlic from a Rick Bayless book. Or the fact that I have been spending every lunch break I can with my bees, anxious and worried about them. Oh, and it’s harvest time! The wood shed (a.k.a. garlic curing shed) is rapidly filling with rows of hanging garlic. Summer is in full force. Every day seems to pack a wallop. I don’t think the days could get any more full if they tried.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. I love the heat. I love eating out of the garden. I even love weeding the garden. I love wearing little skirts. I love seeing friend after friend, night after night. I love reading in the shade. I love live music in the park. I love floating on my back in Lake Superior. I love going into town for a butter-brickle ice cream. I love boating out to Long Island for cocktails on Wednesday nights. Trust me. I love it. But sometimes, sometimes – it’s. nice. to. stop.

And so I was comforted last Friday night when we went to have dinner with our friends Bob and Reba. They recently bought an adorable little farmhouse in Oulu, WI. Here’s what you need to know about Oulu. It’s pronounced “oo-loo.” It got its name from the sixth most populated city in Finland. Which is odd. Because Oulu, Wisconsin has a population density of 15 people per square mile, paling in comparison to the 260 per square mile of its namesake. As you might suspect, Oulu is pretty quiet. And just to make sure it doesn’t get passed on by, Oulu has a giant painted boulder on the side of U.S. Highway 2 with fancy blue script and an arrow pointing the way to town. But Oulu, I learned, has something else going for it. Oulu has great light.

From the moment we pulled into Bob and Reba’s driveway I was mesmerized by the light. It didn’t matter where we were – standing on the deck grilling monstrous grass-fed steaks, touring the quirky out buildings, retiring to the back porch for one last glass of wine – the light was spectacular. And I couldn’t help but to stop. Because the only way to really take it all in was. to. stop.

See what I mean?

Even without the light show, it was the quintessential summer evening. The season’s first tomatoes, comfortable friends, a couple bottles of wine, a leisurely walk through the fields, tuckered out pups. It was everything I needed to recharge my system.

But  before I go off to revel in my restored summer bliss, I do need to tell you about the garlic. Maybe I’ve been living in a cave, but it has never occurred  to me to dry roast cloves or whole heads with the skins on. But I tried it on Saturday (with Bayless’s encouragement) when I was making a smokey, spicy tomato sauce. And I was stunned at the flavor difference. Garlic roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil comes out rich and buttery tasting. Which is not a bad thing–not at all. But a whole new world opens up with cloves that have been dry roasted. They slip out of their charred papery skins to reveal an entirely different earthy, toasty flavor. Perfect for salsas and sauces. If only I had a wise Mexican grandmother who could have turned me onto this method years ago. Ándale!

Dry Roasted Garlic
Break apart a head of garlic, leaving the papery skins intact. Bring a dry skillet or griddle (I used my wok) up to heat over a medium flame. Add the garlic and toss it occasionally while it starts to brown and char in spots. Remove from heat when the cloves start to get a little tenderness to them. The whole process should take about 10-15 minutes. Let cool, slip off charred papers and chop. You can also do whole heads, but I would be more inclined to try this over an open fire or on the grill instead of the stovetop.

1 Response to “packing a wallop”


  1. 1 Judy Kaster August 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Jill, I enjoy reading your blog so much!


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