Archive for the 'garlic patch' Category

garlic report

I think it is  finally safe to say (bang on wood) that the weather has turned. There are still a few random snow piles, desperately hanging on for dear life, but the garlic patch is clearly visible. I’ve even managed to duck out of work an hour early a few nights this week and sneak off to the garden. It’s my favorite time there – when the light is all slanty and rich. I shake myself a small vodka gimlet, plunk in 3 hazelnuts, and pick out a few seed packets for the evening’s planting. My kind of happy hour.


Traditionally my sugar snap pea crop is in the ground no later than Tax Day. They almost always get a little snow at some point, but that’s the nice thing about peas – they don’t mind. I’ve never planted peas so late, but I finally got two rows in on Tuesday evening. It might be a lost cause if the weather turns too hot, too fast. But after mulling it over for about a half a second, I decided it’s worth the gamble.

I’m anxious to see how the early summer plays out. Will things catch up, or should I resign myself to an agonizing month delay on spring produce? Either way, I refuse to be deterred. I’ve already declared this the year of the garden. Last spring I was too tied up with finishing and moving into a new house to really put much attention into the garden. And the year before that I was on couch probation – recovering from eye surgery. Those gardens still produced food, but they were sorely lacking in character. This year though, I am back on my game. I already have black mulch down, pre warming the hot pepper bed.

And then there is the question of the garlic. When we left off last fall, I was terribly nervous about the effects of what I think was a Phytoplasma bacteria outbreak. On the chance that I planted any infected seed, I’m ready with floating row covers to keep different varieties isolated and protected from the leaf hoppers that transmit the bacteria. So far there is not a leaf hopper in sight. But that hardly matters. There is barely garlic in sight. Here’s a shot of the Aglio Rossa taken on May 15 this year.


I’ve been pulling back mulch, doling out encouragement and assuring the new sprouts that it doesn’t matter that they’re light years behind where last year’s May crop was. Maybe they’re just trying to mess with the leaf hoppers.


Nevertheless, I’m planning on a later than nornal harvest this season. Luckily our garlic stores are still holding out. The raw cloves are definitely picking up heat, and there are a few green sprouts to remove, but it still cooks up just fine. Lately though I’ve been on an infused garlic oil kick. It’s a great way to add a nice warm garlic flavor to grains, salads, and lightly steamed vegetables. It takes out any heat or bitterness, leaving only a subtle, smooth garlic flavor.

I picked up this tip from the “prep school” section at the back of a Bon Appétite and it’s a trick that has stuck with me. For maximum flavor let the cloves get almost black (but not burnt) before removing them from the oil.

Garlic Oil

4-5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the garlic and crush each clove with the blade of a knife. Heat the oil over low-medium heat and cook the garlic cloves, turning occasionally until the are dark brown to black (about 8 – 10 minutes). Remove and discard garlic, store any unused oil in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.


good deed

I’m trying to keep my chin up, but every time I go out to work in the garlic patch I wind up feeling gloomy. It’s the uncertainty of my seed stock and the scare of Phytoplasma infected seed that’s getting me down. One minute I think I was ruthless in my culling. But the next moment I’m questioning if I should be planting any of it. It feels risky, but for now I am forging on and planting the little bit of seed that I think is safe. I plan on making heavy use of floating row covers next spring to keep any potentially infected plants isolated from the leaf hoppers that transmit the bacteria.
I’ve been in e-mail contact with a handful of garlic growers and the disease is eerily widespread across the midwest – even as far south as Missouri. Current thinking is that the mild winter coupled with a hot spring and early leaf hopper migration are to blame. The warm spring caused the garlic to sprout earlier than normal. Leaf hoppers don’t actually prefer to feed on garlic foilage, but this year it was one of the few food sources available to them upon their early arrival in the north.
It’s easy enough as it is for me to get pretty wound up about our country’s whacky food and agricultural systems and climate-induced outbreaks like this one only compound my fears. But if nothing else, it is a good reminder of how vitally important small backyard gardens are. Diversity, friends! It’s on our side. A wise approach to apply to all aspects of life, really.
On that note, if you have a few healthy heads of garlic lolling around your pantry, I beg you to take them out back and plant them. It’s an easy good deed, I promise. And it’s a good investment. Garlic might be in hot demand. Just break apart each head into individual cloves and plunge them into some fluffed up soil – flat (root) end down, pointy tip up, an inch or two deep. Give about 6 to 8 inches of space between each clove. Add a hefty blanket of mulch – straw ideally, leaves in a pinch – and you’re all set, you’ve done your part. Garlic pigs nation wide will thank you.
And, if like me, you have any so-so looking garlic sitting about, I have a solution for that as well. We’ll just use that up quick in a garlic infused hot chile paste. Oh fine, if you insist, you can save out one of your healthy looking heads of garlic to use instead. I’ll just look the other way – this sauce is worth it. It’s so good that it has jockeyed for front position in the condiment door of the fridge – sending the big bottle of Sriracha to the back. In my house, that’s sayin’ something.
I was introduced to this knock-out hot sauce a few years ago when my friends Bob and Reba came to dinner bearing a jar of it. It was a perfect condiment for the large platter of Indonesian gado-gado I had made. Fiery, but tangy with just a hint of sweet. Later, Bob assured me it’s the perfect condiment for almost everything. Stir-fries, beans, eggs, even – he claims – peanut butter sandwiches. And he’s right. It’s built on a flavor combination that makes you crave more, in spite of the heat.
After I ate through my first jar, Bob and Reba graciously set me up with two more – and the recipe. As it turns out, it’s a recipe from a cookbook that has been sitting on my shelf for years – Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. The book is a favorite, but it’s thick, and evidently I have not discovered all of it’s gems. I love it when that happens. The book is a collective of 18 different authors, each one focusing on a particular ethnic cuisine. The chile paste – Sambal Bajag – hails from Southeast Asia.
Towards the end of each garden season, I round up the last of the tomatoes and hot peppers for a octuple batch (that’s eightfold, and yes, I had to look up the proper term.) This generally yields about five 1/2 pint pressure canned jars to stick in the pantry.  What follows is the single recipe which makes a healthy 1/3 cup of sauce. This will keep in the fridge for a good long while. Which is nice, because a little dab goes a long way. You can use any combination of finely chopped hot peppers – fresh, dried, or plain old pepper flakes. I typically use a mix of tiny dried Bird’s Eye and semi-dried Ho Chi Minh from the garden. Whatever you do, be bold! Don’t  skimp! As the recipe notes, “If it’s not hot, it’s not right.”

Sambal Bajag
Adapted from Sundays at Moosewood

3 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
4-6 teaspoons well minced or crushed hot peppers (dried red chilies, pepper flakes, or fresh)
1/3 – 1/2 cup finely minced tomato
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons dark molasses

In a heavy frying pan or wok, heat the oil and stir-fry the onions and garlic. after a minute or so, add the hot peppers. Reduce heat and stir constantly so they do not burn. As soon as the peppers darken a little, add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the sambal on very low heat until most of the moisture has evaporated and the oil gradually returns to the surface – about 20 minutes. By this point the sauce should be so well cooked that you can’t really detect the tomatoes. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 1/3 cup.

bad situation

It’s time to get back to the business at hand here. We’re way over due for a garlic talk. The honeybee drama has sort of hogged the stage lately. Truth be told though, I’m having as much trouble with the garlic as I’ve has with the bees. And I’m sort of in denial about it. If nothing else, the bees have been providing a nice distraction.
I’ll cut right to the chase. In my 18 years of growing garlic, I have never had things go quite so wrong. Sure, I’ve harvested some varieties way too late, mislabeled others, and have even had some surface mold issues. But this – this is something all together different. Everything was smooth sailing, right up until about a week before harvest. Almost overnight though, my generally healthy looking garlic plot turned yellow and crunchy. Nearly every single plant, of every single variety. This is when the denial started. We’re in sort of a drought, I rationalized. It’s natural for things to dry up and get crispy, right?
garlic decline
I bumped up my harvest schedule and started pulling varieties as fast as I could. Things didn’t look too bad, but the plants just didn’t seem right. The average head size was maybe a tad smaller than normal, but overall the heads seemed firm. The curing shed gradually filled up and looked like it looks every fall, but I left it hanging to dry with sort of queazy feeling in my stomach.
I decided that the best I could do at this point was a some research. I learned, rather shockingly, that much of the garlic crop in the midwest has been affected by a bacteria called Phytoplasma. Yellowing leaves and premature browning is a key symptom. Many growers in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are reporting up to 100% crop loss. Gulp.
The bacteria (which are tricky to detect due to their lack of a cell wall) appear to be spread from plant to plant by leafhoppers. Phytoplasma seriously affected garlic production in Edmonton, Canada 13 years ago, and in Cordoba, Argentina 15 years ago. One scientific paper I read out of Argentina refers to the disease repeatedly as ‘Tristeza del ajo’ or ‘the garlic decline.’ How sad is that? Evidentially many Midwestern crops, flowers, and vegetables have been infected by Phytoplasma disease this year.
If there is any good news in all this, it’s that the bacteria affects only the growing parts of the plant and does not infect the soil or move through the air. The bad news though, and it’s bad, is that Phytoplasma will likely overwinter in infected bulbs and the disease will carry over into the next year’s crop. This means, of course, that it is not a good idea to plant infected seed. See why I’m in still in denial? I’m one sad little garlic pig.
garlic in wiaitng
I have just a wee bit of what appears to be non-infected, normal seed. But even the thought of planting that makes me nervous. And I have quite a lot of infected bulbs. They also make me nervous. Once you get past peeling away their unnaturally ruddy-brown papers, the cloves are normal and safe to eat, but something tells me they may not store very well. Consequently we’ve been eating a lot of garlic intensive meals this fall. I’m doing my best to make the most of a bad situation.
Serving up Yotam Ottolenhi’s Caramelized Garlic Tart has certainly helped. I’m pretty sure I could eat this endlessly. Which is good, because I might have to in order to get through all of my declining garlic. Pair it with a simple green salad for a fantastic dinner. Or serve it up for brunch. Either way, get ready for a heavenly mix of savory cheeses and sweet caramelized garlic. It is simply delicious. And it’s bound to ease some troubles – garlic or otherwise.
garlic tart

Caramelized Garlic Tart
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

1 sheet (8 1/2 oz) puff pastry
3 heads of garlic (3-4 ounces total), separted and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 scant cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 oz soft goat cheese (chev)
4 oz gruyere, shredded (or any similar hard cheese)
2 eggs
1/3 cup cream or half and half
1/3 cup crème fraîche
salt and pepper, to taste

Use a 9 1/2 to 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe. It makes serving it a dream.

Roll out the puff pastry so it will fill the bottom and line the sides of the tart pan. Transfer to pan and trim any excess. Cut a circle of parchment the diameter of the pan and lay over the pastry. Fill up with baking beans of pie beads and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Blind bake the pastry shell in a 350ºF oven for 20 minutes. The beans or weights keep the pastry from puffing – leaving room for the filling. Remove the beans and bake for an additional 10 minutes until golden. Once done, set aside to cool.

While the pastry shell bakes, caramelize the garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover entirely. Bring to a boil and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and dry the garlic. Return the pan to the heat, add oil and fry the garlic cloves in it over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, and let it simmer for another 15 – 20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic is coated in a lucious glaze. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, crème fraîche, salt and pepper in a bowl.

To assemble the tart, scatter the baked pastry shell with both cheese. Sppon the garlic and its syrup over the cheese. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the top. Reduce the oven to 300ºF and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until the tart is set and nicely golden brown. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Serves 8.

pie beans


This is something I should really being telling you about in the fall, but I can’t wait that long. I promise to remind you. It’s about garlic. See, there comes a time every spring when the storage garlic gets too soft and sprouty to use and the green garlic bed is just a little too young to raid. A garlic drought. This is a sad time for garlic pigs. But this year (squeal!) things are different. This year, there is freezer garlic.
freezer garlic
I’ve always wondered about freezer garlic, but it just seems wrong. I’ve never had the courage to plunge those plump little gems into the frozen darkness. This fall though, on a whim, I gathered up all of the rogue cloves that didn’t make the planting cut and filled a few ziplock bags. Then I tossed them in and did my best to forget about them. And I pretty much did. Until a few weeks ago when the garlic drought hit.
I was making what otherwise would become a poor, garlicless stir fry and skeptically reached in the freezer for a handful of cloves. Things got of off to a promising start. The skins slipped right off. It got even better when I ran the frozen cloves through the press. Remember Play-Doh’s Fuzzy Pumper Barbershop? You know where you pump play-doh hair through little people’s heads so you can give them a stylish hairdo? I never actually had a Fuzzy Pumper – I had to rely on my best friend’s. But oh how I loved making heads of bright blue play-doh hair. Well. Let me tell you. Freezer garlic is the culinary equivalent of the Fuzzy Pumper. The cloves have a different texture than fresh garlic and they squeeze through in long, lucious strands. I’m easily amused in the kitchen.
But the real clincher is the taste. It livened up the stir fry just like my storage garlic. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference – especially all cooked up with other flavors. So that’s it. I’m a freezer garlic convert. I’m already down to my last ziplock. I won’t be storing mass quantities this way, but it’s a fine solution for those loose, post-planting cloves. And I love that they just hang tight in the freezer until called on. It’s exactly the thing I need to see me through the spring garlic dearth.
smudge in the garlic patch
I’ll remind you this fall to stick a baggie in the freezer. You just throw the cloves in, skins and all. It couldn’t be easier. And if nothing else, you’ll have the makings for your very own Fuzzy Pumper Garlic Shop.

garlic pusher

I fear that I’ve been a little remiss at promoting the planting of garlic. Now is the time people! At least in the northern hemisphere. Really anytime between the end of September and right up until the ground freezes works. I shoot for mid-October here in northern Wisonsin. It doesn’t always work out that way, but fortunately, garlic is pretty forgiving.

Ideally you want the garlic to get a jump on growing and set down a few roots before winter sets in. Then come spring it will shoot up as the ground thaws and be on its way. It’s really a glorious sight. If push comes to shove, you can even plant in the early spring, but who really  wants to stick their fingers into icy cold soil? Do it now, while there is a least a glimmer of summer left.

Ready for a garlic planting crash course? It’s really easy, I promise.

1. Find yourself a few nice heads of garlic – ideally of a variety you enjoy.

2. Break apart the head into individual cloves. Pick out the largest ones and set aside any itty-bitty ones for eating. Leave the paper skin intact, but don’t worry if a bit of it pulls away.

3. Find yourself a patch of loosely fluffed soil – even a big pot on the deck or in the garage will work. Maybe work in a bit of compost if you have it.

4. Poke each clove in (root end down, pointy tip up) about twice as deep as the clove itself, 6 to 8 inches apart. Give a little pat of encouragement to each clove as you fill in the soil around it.

5. Put a good layer of mulch (by good, I mean 6-8 inches worth) over the top of your patch. I use straw, but leaves would work too. If you are leaving a pot on the deck, mulch it extra well around the sides too so it doesn’t freeze too hard. I think a shed or garage would be the best bet. Then just drag the pot outside in the spring.

And that’s it. I assure you that the hardest part is waiting. But it’s so worth it. Because if you’ve planted a little extra (did I mention you should plant a little extra?) you can harvest a few shoots of pencil-thick green garlic in the early spring and make amazing things with them. Even if you didn’t plant a little extra, you’ll still be okay. Come June you’ll get a fine crop of twirly scapes that you can make more amazing things with.

If all goes well, by late summer you’ll have significantly more garlic than the few heads you started out with. Which means fewer vampires and more amazing things in the kitchen. Like this garlic sauce, which is deliciously good on almost everything. Just keep an eye out for the devil.

The Devil’s Sauce
(adapted from Chester Aaron’s Garlic is Life)

2 red or mild banana peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 habañero chile, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning (or use all cumin)
4 tablespoons red pepper flakes (aleppo if you have it)
10 large garlic cloves (about 3-4 ounces), roasted*
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
black pepper to taste

*I use Romanian Red garlic, which has fairly large cloves. If you’re using a variety with smaller cloves, you may need way more than 10 cloves to make 3-4 ounces. To roast it, put the individual cloves in a little foil packet, drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350ºF for 45 minutes to an hour until cloves are tender and can squeeze easily out of their papers.

For the sauce, blend the peppers, chile, and onions in a food processor to make a purée. Transfer to a saucepan and add the vinegar, oil, sugar, cumin, and adobo, and pepper flakes. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes before adding in the roasted garlic. Mash everything up a bit and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper and adjust to taste. Makes about 2 cups. Store in fridge, freeze, or pressure can (15 minutes at 10 psi).

cold chaser

This is going to sound pathetic, but I have been trying to turn out a batch of chocolate chip cookies since the beginning of September. My husband Mark is a science teacher at Bayfield High School. And I know from experience that the transition back into the chaos of the classroom can be a rough one. So naturally I thought chocolate chip cookies would help.

I must have taken the butter out to come to room temperature at lest a dozen times, only to return it – untouched – back to the fridge at the end of another long day. When I finally did get the dough mixed up, it was a two day affair to get all the cookies into the oven and baked. And after all that, they didn’t even come out looking very pretty. But at least they taste good.

It appears, however, that my efforts might have come a little too late. Mark flopped down on the couch this weekend and succumbed to his fate. “They finally  got me,” he moaned. It’s inevitable. It happens every fall. It’s only a matter of when. The dreaded back-to-school cold. And this year’s is a doozy – already making its way deep into his lungs.

But this time I was ready for duty. Garlic! This boy needs garlic and lots of it. And so as a cure for Mark (and a preventative for myself) I made up a steaming pot of garlic soup. It’s a simple soup with just a handful of ingredients, but don’t let that fool you. Its flavor is rich and complex. Head cold or not, if it doesn’t bolster your spirits after a long day, I don’t know what will.

The key is to make this soup with the freshest garlic you can find. Older garlic runs the risk of being too hot and sharp. This time around I used a nice mild Spanish Roja. The recipe, which comes via the New York Times Cookbook, calls for roughly 36 cloves of garlic. Since garlic cloves can vary quite a bit in size, I’ve settled on average clove weight of 3 to 4 grams. So depending on the garlic I’m using, I typically chop up anywhere from 100 – 150 grams of garlic. Cold? What cold? I knew it was working when midway through dinner Mark sighed and said he wanted to drink the soup like milkshake.

Soupe à L’ail (garlic soup)
Adapted from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
36 average size, cloves of garlic (100-150 grams), peeled and roughly chopped
8 cups water
Salt and ground pepper to taste
3 ounces capallini or other thin pasta, broken into pieces
6 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Fresh thyme for garnish
Olive oil

Melt the butter and oil in a large soup pan. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute – do not let it brown. Add the water and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain the cooking liquid and reserve the garlic. Put 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and all of the garlic into a blender or food processor and whiz into a smooth puree.

Return the rest of the cooking liquid along with the garlic puree back to the soup pot and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook for about 3 minutes, until pasta is just tender. Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the vinegar.

Turn off the heat, pour the egg whites into the hot soup, cover and wait a few minute until the egg white form a cloud-like mixture. Do not stir them in. When the whites are fully cooked, add the egg yolk/vinegar mixture and stir very slowly to combine. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

the patience of garlic

I hate it when real life gets in the way of my fantasy life. You know – the one where I make my living as a small scale garlic farmer, maybe opening a donut cart on weekends to make ends meet. A girl can dream, can’t she?
But the reality is that I’ve hit the ground running this fall. My normal design work is kicking back up after a lazy summer lull. I’m taking a couple of online classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (let me tell you, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to follow a syllabus, take quizzes, and turn in homework). We’re in the throes of designing a small new house that will hopefully be built on our land this winter. Which means we’re also in the throes of figuring out how to finance a small new house. Oh, and to add a little more chaos, we’re fostering (read: probably adopting) a rescue dog. Somebody pass me a donut, please.

Earl is a great guy. I can tell you that he has completely won my heart. But Earl is nervous. Very nervous. It’s a crazy world out there, riddled with surprises. Earl will be the first to tell you. So we’re working on this, trying to instill as much calm and stability as we can. And really he is making loads of progress.
I am lucky enough to live within a half mile of a splendid view of Lake Superior, Madeline Island, and on clear days – Michigan’s upper peninsula. Earl and I have made a habit of trudging (this happens pre-coffee) up the hill each morning. And when we get to the top of the hill, we check on the lake to make sure it is still there. Sixteen mornings straight now, it has been there for us. It’s nice to have something you can count on. Ask Earl.
Truthfully though, I go check on the lake for my own sanity as much as anything. My days lately have been frantic and overflowing with things to do. Uncomfortably so, at least for my taste. My morning hike to see the lake is a respite. It wakes me up – literally and figuratively. I take a deep breath in, swallow as much of it as I possibly can, and turn back down the hill towards my day.
On the way back inside, I pass by my shed of curing garlic. I look at is wistfully. It needs to be cleaned, trimmed, sorted, inventoried, and stored. But that’s the nice thing about garlic – it’s patient, it’ll wait. I explain to the garlics that maybe some day I really will be a professional small scale garlic farmer. But for now, they’re going to have to put up with my juggling act. At any rate, when I do get to the garlic, and I will, there is bound to be a surplus. I’d love to share it with you. If you’re interested, drop me a note (here) and I’ll keep you posted on what’s available. In the meantime, breathe in and swallow deeply.

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.

young love

Dear Dilly Beans,

I thought you should know that I’ve met someone new. And I’m positively smitten. Please know that it’s nothing personal. I still care for you. Really, I do. It’s just I’ve found someone who shares your same crunch, your same tang, and that fine dill flavor – but with so much more to offer. These beauties also have a subtle, well rounded garlic flavor packed into their jars. And to be fair, well, it’s because they are garlics. Garlic scapes anyways. I think my new love and I have a promising future together. I can see them on antipasto platters, mixed into salads, and bobbing around in tomato-based cocktails. And I’m already dreaming of the cold, dreary March afternoon when I pop the lid and start eating straight from the jar. I hope you can take comfort in the fact that without you, my dear Dilly Beans, I might not have ever even discovered my new crush. So I promise to make room for both of you on my plate. I only hope you can wait until my dilly scape honeymoon is over.

Garlic Pig

It’s true. I’ve fallen for another. I was sort of set up though. It all started a week or so ago when I was reading through one of my latest favorite books (in preparation for kimchi and kraut season), Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz when I came across his father’s recipe for classic dilly beans. Here’s where things start to get sticky. I knew there was a few pounds of fresh picked scapes waiting in the fridge. Hmmm. I did a quick google search that revealed that I wasn’t alone in my wayward ways. There are a handful of people out there who share my same wild thoughts.

Next, I went to my tattered copy of the Ball Blue Book of Canning and compared dilly bean recipes. I settled on a combination of the two recipes and got to work. I rationalized that it wasn’t intentionally going astray. I mean let’s be honest, the green beans are weeks away from being ready. I couldn’t have pickled them if I wanted to. I just settled for the next best thing, that’s all. How can I help it if I happened to fall head over heals?

Pickled Dilly Scpaes

1 pound fresh garlic scapes

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

whole white peppercorns
dried hot chilies (I used bird’s eye)
fresh dill – heads or leaves, or a combination

Gather, wash, and sterilize your canning jars. If you really pack the jars tightly, one pound of trimmed scapes will fill about 36 ounces of jar space. I did a combination of 8 ounce, half pint jars and taller 12 ounce jars. If you don’t plan on doing a tight pack, you will need more jars AND more brining liquid, so plan accordingly.

Wash and dry the scapes (if necessary) and trim the tops, just below the bulging flower head. Do I need to remind you to save the tops to make a stock with? I didn’t think so. Next, do a quick jar measurement and trim the scapes to fit into whatever size jar you have chosen so there is about 1/2 inch of headspace. After you have trimmed all the scapes to size, pack them into the sterile jars, sort of bending out the curvy parts as you go. Add 1 fresh dill head (or leaves), 1 dried chili pepper and 2-3 peppercorns to each jar.

For the brining solution, bring the water, vinegar, and salt to boil in a saucepan and remove from heat after salt has dissolved.

Pour the hot brine into the jars, filling until there is 1/4 inch of headspace. Secure sterilized 2 part lids and process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from canner, let cool, label jars and store without bands for at least a few weeks to let the flavors develop.

here’s to exceptions

We skipped the Fourth of July fireworks this year. And the parades. And the community potluck. Instead, we stayed home, seared a rib eye on the grill, tossed up a fresh Cesar salad, cranked some Rachmaninov, and watched a perfect banana moon rise through the trees. If I had it my way, this is how we’d spend every Fourth of July. I’m just not a crowd person. Except for the Minnesota State Fair. I bend the rules for that. It’s in my blood. (48 days and counting).

The flowers have finally started blooming, which made for a very nice, very quiet firework display on our deck. The garlic scapes put on quite a show as well. They went all out, slathering themselves in a beer batter and then hoping into a pan of hot oil for the grand finale. And my, oh, my. They truly outdid themselves. But first, I need to tell you that I really don’t get into deep frying. I have a small kitchen, a finicky gas stove, and a lack of good ventilation. None of which is conducive for deep frying. Still, I lust after buttermilk fried chicken recipes and dream of all the summer tempura possibilities. Occasionally, on cold winter mornings especially, I’ll cave and turn out a batch of steamy honey donuts, but other than that, I don’t fry.
Until now. Now, I might have another exception on my hands. I’m full of them lately, aren’t I? You’ll be glad though – I promise. Light and crunchy on the outside, warm and creamy on the inside with just a tease of garlic flavor. I’ve been on a garlic scape cooking craze lately, and making something festive for our Fourth of July meal felt like the right thing to do. I pilfered my stash of “maybe, someday, after I’ve built myself an outdoor kitchen, I might actually fry something recipes” and pick and chose from them to come up with a good old-fashioned beer batter. I also mixed up a quick tamari dunking sauce which was a perfect match for these golden beauties.
So go on! Get yourself some scapes at the Saturday market. And then shed any frying fears you might harbor and give these a try. They are so very worth it.
p.s. Buy some extra scapes while you’re at it. Pickled Dilly Scapes are up next!
Beer Battered Garlic Scapes
1/2 pound fresh garlic scapes
spoonful rice flour
salt and pepper

1/2 cup rice flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 small egg, beaten (or half of a large egg)
few dashes of Tabasco
up to 1/2 cup flat beer
oil for deep frying (Be sure to use something with a high smoking point. I used a combination of canola and peanut oil)

Trim the tops of the scapes just below the bulge (save the tops for soup stock if you wish). Give scapes a rinse under water and pat off most of the moisture with a towel. Toss them in a bowl with a spoonful of rice flour. Season generously with salt and pepper.
In a large, shallow dish, mix together the flour and cornstarch. Whisk in the beaten egg, tabasco and enough beer to make a thick batter.
Pour enough oil to reach an inch or two of depth into a heavy, deep sided pot, suitable for frying. Attach a thermometer and heat the oil to 375º F. Adjust the heat as you go to keep the oil as close to 375º F as possible, and be wary of hot oil and spatters. Dip the lightly floured scapes into the batter and use you fingers, if necessary to help coat the scape. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably fry 2-3 scapes at a time, but be sure not to overcrowd them. Lower the scapes in the hot oil. Cook for a minute or two until they are golden brown, flipping once. Remove to a paper towel line platter. Continue battering and frying the scapes in small batches. Serve warm.
Serve 2

Tamari Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
few strips of julienned carrot

Mix vinegar, tamari, sugar, and sesame oil in a small jar and shake lightly or whisk until combined. Pour into serving bowl and sprinkle with scallion and carrot. Adjust flavors if necessary.


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