Apr 18, 2013

GARLIC... "The Stinking Rose"

Garlic from Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, California
this superior brand of garlic is available at Misaki's Grocery
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I can't imagine cooking without garlic, even though it is affectionately called "the stinking rose". The smelly compound found in garlic is allyl methyl sulfide. After eating garlic, this compound is passed into your blood during the digestive process. This ends up causing your whole body to smell, not just your breath. As you are excreting this sulfide from your pores and breath, you essentially are wearing a stinky perfume, which can last anywhere from a few hours to as much as a day after eating garlic.

Ok, so now you stink and it's all my fault... I can handle that because it's worth the stink. OK let's keep going; Garlic is a member of the lily family, which also includes onions and leeks. Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Apparently ancient Egyptians were the first to cultivate this plant which played an important role in their culture.

Garlic was thought to have sacred qualities and was placed in the tomb of Pharaohs. It was also given to the slaves that built the Pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, civilizations whose athletes ate garlic before sporting events and whose soldiers consumed it before going off to war. No wonder I am so strong!

Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes.

Throughout the millennia, garlic has been a beloved plant in many cultures for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Researchers have found that garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds, and is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C and a good source of selenium. They have also found that garlic has the ability to lower blood pressure, and lower our blood triglycerides and total cholesterol by as much as 15% (so how come I have high blood pressure and cholesterol?). You’re going to need to eat a lot of garlic however… at least two cloves per day in order to enjoy all of these health benefits. In many societies that have very low cancer and heart disease rates, the people eat even much more than this… 8-10 cloves per day! Luckily, garlic is super-tasty, so eating a lot of it isn’t so difficult, not for me at least.

Currently, China, South Korea, India, Spain and the United States are among the top commercial producers of garlic. If you live in Hawaii, or in the tropics, and want to try and grow your own garlic in your vegetable garden, check out this website for instructions on how to do it.

How to Select and Store Garlic
Fresh garlic is available in grocery stores throughout the year. For maximum flavor and nutritional benefits, always purchase fresh garlic. Although garlic in flake, powder, or paste form may be more convenient, you will get less culinary and health benefits from these forms. Purchase garlic that is plump and has unbroken skin. Gently squeeze the garlic bulb between your fingers to check that it feels firm and is not damp. Avoid garlic that is soft, shriveled, and moldy or that has begun to sprout. These may be indications of decay that will cause inferior flavor and texture. Size is often not an indication of quality. If your recipe calls for a large amount of garlic, remember that it is always easier to peel and chop a few larger cloves than many smaller ones.

Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This will help maintain its maximum freshness and help prevent sprouting, which reduces its flavor and causes excess waste. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic. Some people freeze peeled garlic; however, this process reduces its flavor profile and changes its texture.

Depending upon its age and variety, whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh for about a month if stored properly. Inspect the bulb frequently and remove any cloves that appear to be dried out or moldy. Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.

Warning! Do not store garlic in oil at room temperature. Garlic-in-oil mixtures stored at room temperature provide perfect conditions for producing botulism, regardless of whether the garlic is fresh or has been roasted.

The Healthiest Way To Cook Garlic
It is healthier to use RAW garlic in many recipes, not powdered. If you can't tolerate the taste of raw garlic, add chopped garlic towards the end of the cooking time to retain maximum flavor and nutrition. Too much heat for too long will reduce the activity of the health-promoting sulfur compounds. Also if you mince garlic 10-15 minutes before cooking it, the oxidation process produces enzymes that make the garlic healthier. Too much heat will also make garlic bitter. Therefore expose garlic to heat for as little time as possible (5-15 minutes). Keeping the heat at 250˚F/121˚C or lower will help preserve the health benefits of garlic. This same principle also applies to oven roasting of garlic bulbs.

Garlic Recipes:
Pickled Shoyu Garlic
Pickled Shoyu Garlic
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Pickled shoyu garlic is crunchy, salty, and a little bit spicy. It's almost universally loved among most Japanese and Koreans. The pickling process mellows out, and flavors the garlic making it delicious to eat all by itself. I first had these in a sushi bar in San Francisco, and have been eating them ever since.

Ingredients:
1 cup soy sauce (called shoyu in Hawaii)
1 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
1 pound garlic cloves, (buy them already peeled, available at many supermarkets)

Procedure:
Heat the soy sauce, chili pepper flakes, vinegar and mirin in a pan over medium heat until it's hot but not boiling. Lower the heat to low and put in all the garlic. Simmer for 5 minutes. Put the garlic and hot liquid into the a sterilized jar and close the lid tightly.

Refrigerate or keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 months. The garlic is ready to eat after that. Store in the refrigerator after opening. The soy sauce mixture can be used for meat, fish, fried rice, etc, but make sure the garlic cloves stay completely immersed in the soy sauce in the jar.

Note: If you don't want to go to the trouble to make this recipe, shoyu garlic can be purchased in the refrigerated section of most Asian grocery stores. Here on Moloka'i they can be purchased at Kualapu'u Market for $13 for less than one quart of pickled garlic. They are much easier to make yourself however, and a lot less expensive.

Garlic Shrimp Salad
Ingredients:
4 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound medium-sized cooked shrimp, best bought still frozen
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, discarding bottom fourth
3 tablespoons vegetable broth
1 fresh tomato, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 3 teaspoons dried parsley if fresh is not available)
small head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Ingredients for the dressing:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Procedure:
Press garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out its hidden health benefits. Make sure shrimp is completely thawed and patted dry with a paper towel, or it will dilute the flavor of the salad. Add broth to medium skillet and after it has heated up, sauté asparagus for 5 minutes. Whisk together lemon, oil, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss shrimp, asparagus, parsley, and tomato with dressing and herbs. Allow shrimp salad to marinate for at least 15 minutes or for up to 2 hours, covered and refrigerated. Discard outer leaves of lettuce head, rinse, dry, and chop. Serve shrimp mixture on bed of lettuce and top with crumbled goat cheese, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Garlic
Ingredients:
1 seedless cucumber ("Japanese" cucumber), slice thin on a diagonal
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 yellow onion sliced thin
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Chinese 'Sriracha' hot chili sauce
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
2 teaspoons of roasted sesame seeds

Procedure:
Mix sliced cucumber with salt and let sit fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, soak onion in a little water with rice vinegar in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes. Rinse the cucumbers and set them aside. Mix the garlic with the Sriracha sauce, honey, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. Drain the onions and cucumbers and mix with the dressing. Serve salad chilled. It tastes best when it's very, very cold. Makes 4 servings.

Rustic Garlic Soup
Ingredients:
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 bay leaf
2 sage leaves
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
a dozen medium cloves of garlic, smashed peeled, and chopped
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

day-old crusty bread & more olive oil to drizzle

Procedure:
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the bay leaf, sage, thyme, garlic, and salt. Heat to a gentle boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain into a bowl, remove the bay and sage leaves from the strainer, and return the broth and garlic back to the saucepan, and turn off the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed.

With a fork, whisk the egg, egg yolks, cheese, and pepper together in a bowl until creamy. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, beating all the time, then add (slowly! slowly!), continuing to whisk, a large ladleful of the broth. Stir the contents of the bowl into the garlic broth and whisk it continuously over low-medium heat until it thickens slightly, about the consistency of half-and-half or cream. Place a handful of torn crusty bread chunks into the bottom of each bowl and pour the soup over the bread. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately. Makes about 4 cups of soup.

Pupu-style Garlic Chicken Wings
Ingredients:
3 pounds chicken wings & drummettes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup cornstarch
canola oil for frying

Garlic Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups soy sauce
2 cups sugar
1 cup minced garlic (yes, 1 cup!)
1/2 cup minced green onion
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Procedure:
Combine sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes or until sugar caramelizes slightly. Strain the sauce to eliminate the minced garlic, then set aside.

Season flour and cornstarch with salt and pepper and mix together. Dredge chicken in flour and cornstarch mixture, deep fry or fry in large frying pan. Dip in garlic sauce and serve. Makes 10-12 appetizer (pupus in Hawaiian) servings.

Seared Ahi Tuna with 
Avocado Chimichurri Sauce
Ingredients for sauce:
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large avocado, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 -6 ounce ahi tuna steaks
salt & pepper to taste

Procedure:
Prepare the chimichurri sauce by combining the parsley, cilantro, garlic, oregano, salt, red chilies vinegar and oil in a food processor and puree at medium high speed just until slightly chopped but not smooth. Taste a adjust if necessary. Chop the avocado into 1/4 inch pieces and add to about 1 cup of the prepared chimichurri. Set aside.

Preheat your grill pan on medium-high heat (I use a large iron skillet). Lightly dust each side of the tuna steaks with salt & pepper. Grill the tuna for about 4 minutes before turning, then for about another 2-3 minutes, or until the tuna is no longer pink on the inside (if you like your tuna seared on the outside and slightly raw in the middle, cut the time in half). Serve with a generous amount of the avocado chimichurri with white rice on the side. Makes 2 servings.

Cilantro Garlic Sauce
This simple cilantro garlic sauce recipe is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a delicious condiment used over grilled meats, hamburgers, as a salad dressing, a dip for french fries, or over steamed vegetables. Once you have tried it once, you'll definitely be craving more!

Ingredients:
10 cloves garlic
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons honey or sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce, or to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Procedure:
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. Turn blender on and slowly drizzle the olive oil so that the mixture emulsifies and resembles a light mayonnaise. Add the chopped cilantro leaves and pulse gently until green flecks are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Makes about 2 cups.
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