Posts Tagged 'garlic planting'

october potential

Ouch. Normally October and I are fast friends. But this particular October has been something to recon with. This October took me in, chewed me up, and recently spit me out into a deluge of grey snow flurries. I’ll spare you the details, but do you want to know just how cruel October has been? I haven’t even planted my garlic crop yet. Terrible, I know. But that’s the beauty of garlic. It’s very forgiving.

October was at least kind enough to afford me a teeny bit of time in the kitchen. And there were some memorable moments to be sure. We had a surplus of fresh pressed apple cider this year, so I liberally took 2 gallons and slowly simmered it down to make 4 half-pints of an amazing boiled cider. It sounds extravagant, I know, to turn 2 gallons into 4 cups, but the result is worth it. The cider cooks until it turns into a thick, sweet-tangy syrup – somewhere between the consistency of maple syrup and molasses. I can’t decide how to use it first – spooned onto a cheese plate, glazed over roasted carrots or squash, mixed into a vinaigrette, or simply drizzled over vanilla ice cream. I’ll keep you posted on that as the winter wears on.

cider flow

Making boiled cider is really as easy as putting fresh cider in a heavy stock pot, bringing it to a boil, and then reducing the heat so it can simmer 4 – 5 hours. You really only need to give it an occasional stir until about the last 30 minutes. When it starts to thicken up, you want to stir more often to keep it from scorching. Remove it from the heat when the syrup gets to a consistency you like. That’s it – boiled cider. I went a step further and filled sterile jars and gave them a 15 minute hot-water boiling bath. But, like most concentrated sugars, this will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge, even without canning.

Then there was the night Mark came home with his sweatshirt bundled up and overflowing with fresh purple plums. We sucked down plenty of them fresh, but the stragglers got turned into a simple butter cake. My favorite fall cake – equally as good with pears, plums, or apples. And equally good, if not better, with coffee the next morning. That’s my kind of cake.


The other great thing about this cake is how fast and easy it is. Grease an 8×8 pan with butter and fill the bottom with fresh cut fruit. Melt 9 tablespoons of butter (it is a butter cake after all) and set aside. Mix 5 1/4 ounce (3/4 cup) sugar with 2 eggs. Add in 2 1/2 ounces flour (scant 1/2 cup) and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Stir in the melted butter and pour batter over fruit. Dust with a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger if desired. Bake at 350º F for 40-50 minutes until cake is golden and crackly. See how much potential October has?

But I think the standout for the month was a garlic soup from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The soup itself was simple, yet deceivingly rich and packed with deep flavor. But what really knocked it out of the park was the harissa garnish. It gives the soup just the right punch. For an even quicker meal you could sub in store bought harissa, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Yottam’s version is in the running for the finest harissa I have tasted. It’s well worth the extra 15-20 minutes of effort to mix it up fresh. It didn’t take me long to use up the leftovers – spooning it onto eggs, avocado toasts, and even a green arugula based pizza.

We had the soup as a meal with a big fall salad and sourdough for dunking, but I think it would make a particularly lovely first course for a dinner party. Twenty-five cloves of garlic may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not too bad, especially if you don’t go and use teeny tiny cloves like I did and subsequently have to double the amount to 50. Careful use of a mandolin can make fast work of slicing perfectly thin garlic. As far as the stock and wine go, don’t skimp on quality – they really make up the flavor base of the soup. And the harissa! The harissa will become a kitchen staple for me, soup or no soup. It’s a tad on the salty side – which is one of the reasons why I fell in love with it, but if you’re leery of salt, start small and taste as you go.


Well there. I feel better for having gotten October off my chest. Hopefully next year we’ll resume our slow-paced, nostalgia filled relationship.

Garlic Soup with Harissa
From Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

For the harissa

1 red pepper (or 3 small)
1/2 tsp each coriander seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
1/2 tbsp tomato purée (or tomato paste)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp coarse sea salt

For the soup

3 T butter
2 T olive oil
4 medium shallots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely diced
25 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
3/4 c white wine
1 generous pinch saffron strands
4 bay leaves
1 quart good-quality vegetable stock
4 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Greek yogurt or Crème fraîche (optional)

First make the harissa: put the pepper under a very hot oven broiler until blackened (10-20 minutes, depending on your broiler). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, leave to cool, then peel and discard the skin and seeds. While the pepper is roasting, place a dry frying pan on a low heat and toast the coriander, cumin and caraway for two minutes. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a powder. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and chillies over medium heat until dark and smoky – six to eight minutes. Then blitz all the paste ingredients together in a food processor.

For the soup, gently fry shallots and celery until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for five minutes more. Stir in ginger and thyme, add salt, pour in the wine and leave to bubble for a few minutes. Add the saffron, bay leaves and stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the parsley and blitz with a hand-held blender. Do not over-process – keep some texture.

Serve in shallow bowls. Swirl in some harissa, sprinkle over coriander and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or Crème fraîche, if you like.


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.


No Instagram images were found.