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Archive for the ‘Garlic’ Category

Every time your BMG (BNG?  Bad Nonna Genny for today’s recipe?) walks up to the front door, she’s bombarded with a cloud of basil ambrosia.  But she knows it won’t last forever.  Soon she’ll be wailing and gnashing her teeth and rending The Boy’s garments (what?  They’re not as cute as hers) because she can’t get fresh basil anymore.  But she will be encouraged to know that, despite the lack of basil ambrosia in her life, despite the fact that she seems to have reverted to speaking of herself in the third person, there is basilage to be had, and it’s as close as the freezer.

Pesto, peeps!  During the summer I make a fresh batch every week, which is about as long as it takes for the monster plants at the front door to become unwieldy again.  Then I drop it by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper sheets, roll up the paper, bag it, and stick it in the freezer.  By the end of September, I’ve got rolls and rolls of pesto like herbaceous green button candy, and it sees me through until the next year’s plants kick into SEARCH AND FUCKING DESTROY mode.

I keep the pesto on the thick side–easy to spoon, and it stays concentrated so I can use it however which way I like.

SOME EXAMPLES OF HOWEVER WHICH WAY I LIKE:

*Folded full-strength into some softened butter for rolls
*Dropped into soup or stew for quick seasoning
*Thinned with a little pasta cooking water and tossed with your favorite noodles
*Under my arms–all-natural deodorant! (“Is she joking? I hope she’s joking.”)
*Creamed into mayonnaise and adorning a BLT
*Thinned out with some vinegar and drizzled over a salad
*As a cool hipster-y lip gloss (“Where is she going with all these body product jokes?”)
*Spread thinly onto a pizza crust in place of red sauce
*Whisked into scrambled eggs
*Layered in a tomato and mozzarella pie, topped with a biscuit crust
*As an all-natural, scented lube! (“Oh dear God.”)

Okay, so would you like to know how to execute this most marvelous and simple yet impressive feat of domesticity, or would you like your Bad Nonna Genny to give you increasingly more suggestive uses for pes–

–Oh, you’d like the recipe?  Okay, then.

5 Minute Pesto Buttons
Makes about 8 buttons, each button equal to approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto

Go Get:
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but I’ve used walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc. with great results–today I started with slivered almonds)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (BNG is never without it, parmesan is a good substitute)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt ‘n Pepa (the hip-hop duo from the ’90’s, not the seasonings.  Okay, fine, I meant the seasonings.)
olive oil (this isn’t exact, but it’s usually around 1/4 cup)

Go Do:
Okay, now toss those basil leaves into the bowl of your food processor.

Now add in the garlic cloves, a few shakes of salt and pepper, and cheese.

Now toss those nuts into a dry skillet, turn the heat to medium, and agitate things around until it’s all toasty–shouldn’t take more than a minute, and they’re usually done when you start to smell them.  Observe!

Now drop in those nuts and give the food processor a few good pulses until everything’s all macerated.  Now start the motor running and slowly drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube in the top.  You should see things start to form a paste.  You can add a little more if need be, but I’d just take off the top and check before you do that, just to make sure the oil’s being incorporated.  When things form a loose paste, you’re done!  Check it for Salt ‘n Pepa (the seasonings, not the ’90’s hip-hop duo), and adjust accordingly.

Now put out a sheet of wax paper and drop the pesto by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Lay another sheet of wax paper on top, lightly flatten the pesto mounds into thick, flat buttons for easier storage, and gently roll it up.  Pop the roll into a bag, stick it into the freezer, and rest easy, misfits.

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(Psst…if you haven’t signed up for my subversive cross stitch giveaway yet, do so now!)

When your Bad Mama Genny and The Boy lived in the New York City place, we frequented the occasional Jewish deli.

Fine, the SLIGHTLY MORE THAN OCCASIONAL Jewish deli.  What can I say?  I’m a half-Jew.  Making me a Cashew.  Fun, little known fact about your Bad Mama Genny, misfits.  Oy vey!

In any case, these fine establishments almost always carry the elusive, the beautiful, the mouthgasm inducing…SOUR PICKLE.  These are totally different from vinegar pickles–they’re sour because they go through lactic acid fermentation, which gives them a unique flavor profile, makes them easier to digest, and grants them special probiotic superpowers.

I am all about superpowers, misfits.  Just this weekend, The Boy’s mom taught me how to crochet.  She was in town for a funeral, which is pretty much as good a place to learn crochet as any other.  There were no sour pickles at this funeral, but someone did chip a tooth, so that was exciting!

It was me.

Oddly enough, there are those who think the most valuable thing in the pickle crock isn’t even the pickles–it’s the garlic.  In fact, lacto-fermented garlic is something of a folk remedy for its probiotic and antibacterial properties, as well as its ability to repel strangely moody, pale man-boy mouth breathers with names that rhyme with Schmedward.  So basically, this garlic IS SOME VALUABLE SHIT.  And, um, just in case you were worrying that this recipe wouldn’t include enough of that fine and funky garlic?

Yeah, I think we’re pretty well covered here.

Y’know, naturally-fermented pickle brine was also once a precious commodity and cure-all.  But historical misfits wouldn’t stop at applying it to cuts, bruises, and rashes–they used it on wrinkles, too, which is just. so. sexy.  Of course, people don’t do this anymore, but I say, why pass up a perfectly good opportunity to torture the people you love?  In fact, the next time The Boy walks into the room, I plan to toss a bucket of cold pickle brine into his face.  For love.

Naturally.

Make up some naturally-fermented pickles with your bumper crop of cukes, lovey loves.  Because the BMG is worried that you may not be colonized by sufficient numbers of foreign bodies.

Colonizing you with foreign bodies.  It’s one of the things I do best.

Lacto-Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles
Makes 1 gallon pickles

Go Get:
3 1/2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, washed, with blossom end shaved off (that would be the non-stem end)
6 Tablespoons sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon calcium chloride (optional, for crisp)
3 heads garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
1/2 cup whey (extract whey from yogurt like so) (wanna do this the vegan/dairy-free way?  See this post.)
2 large bunches dill weed
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
2 Tablespoons dill seed
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
2 teaspoons mustard seed

Go Do:
Start with a clean, 1 gallon container–a pitcher works well for this.  Pile in the cukes, layering them with the dill weed, garlic cloves, and spices.

At this point you may be wondering if my manicures are EVER unchipped.  The answer is…no.

Reposition any cukes you have to in order to keep them several inches below the top of the container.  Now mix 8 cups of lukewarm (not hot), filtered water with the calcium chloride (if using), salt, and whey.  Stir and pour over the pickles to thoroughly submerge them.  If you need more liquid to cover, add additional filtered water.  Now place an open Ziploc bag over the crock (open side up), and fill with enough water to weight the cucumbers down and keep them submerged.  When you have that right, seal the bag, cover the whole thing loosely with a towel, and let sit in a dark, room-temperature location.  Check the pickles for sourness each day.  Mine are usually at optimal sourness in 1 week, but your results will differ based on temperature and environment.  Once they’re where you like ’em, refrigerate the batch to slow fermentation and enjoy!  They’ll keep for about a year, and usually longer.

Note: If a little mold develops on top, don’t worry–this is normal.  Just skim it off, rinse and replace the bag, and keep on fermenting, lovey doves.

Note Again: Pickled garlic turns blue sometimes.  It’s normal.  We all get blue sometimes, right?  Well, this is a totally harmless chemical reaction and you can (and should, and MUST) still eat the blue cloves.

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Why this photo?  Because happy vegetables make delicious salsa.

And also because the neighbors didn’t seem alarmed enough yet.

Anybody plant one little tomatillo plant and end up with bushels of fruit?  No?  How about you CSA subscribers?  Did you open your box this week only to be buried under 3 feet of little green paper lanterns?  No?

Okay, fine.  Well, any misfits out there like salsa verde?  Is that a good enough reason for you to read this, then?

Is it?!

IS IT?!

I have a compulsive need for approval.  I’m working on it. In the meantime you’ll just have to placate me.  I mean, if that’s okay with you.

A few weeks ago, The Boy and I attended the Chicago Beer Society’s annual picnic so he could show his support for his newest beer-related membership, eat and drink to excess, and have an excuse to make multiple kinds of potato salad (Kalamata Olive, and Hot Pepper Ranch).  What with a chili cookoff, a rib cookoff, an “other meats” cookoff (not as suspicious as it sounds, promise.  Okay, slightly suspicious.  Shut up, that pate was amaaaaaazing.  But it wasn’t, interestingly enough, “cooked off.”  Ooh, totally suspicious now.), a salsa competition, and 16 self-serve kegs of local craft brew, I don’t think I need to tell you how completely awesomesauce it was.

What I do need to tell you is that 16 self-serve kegs of local craft brew is a GREAT way to sell t-shirts that say “Chicago Beer Society” to people who aren’t even members of the Chicago Beer Society.  I won’t tell you whom.

I don’t want to name names.

Wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone.

Anyhoo, as I stood in the salsa line and surveyed my options, a revelation came over me.  Actually, what the hell, let’s call it an epiphany.  A life-changing, zesty, sweat-inducing epiphany.  I scanned crocks and bowls of various shapes and sizes, some containing chunky concoctions, some smooth, some with mango, some with cilantro, some that looked suspiciously like Pace Picante–

–friends, clearly the word of the day is “suspicious;” just puttin’ that out there.  Didn’t think we could ignore the truth any longer–

–and some that were so hot they were practically melting the Tupperware they came in.  But I wasn’t having any of it, folks.  ‘Cause most of them were red!  (Commie connotations aside.)

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like me a red salsa.  But oh.  Oh.  OH.  That green stuff is where my heart is.

That green stuff is where my heart is.  I must say that at least 80 times a day.

Enough time passed, and eventually 2 or 3 green salsas made it to the table.  And they were decent.  Good, even.  Not suspicious at all.  But I longed for the day when I could make my own salsa verde.  When some beautiful tomatillos would show up on MY doorstep, and then I could make my OWN salsa, and take pictures of MY salsa, and give you a recipe for said SALSA, and then I’d show EVERYBODY!

That’s right, I’ll show EVERYBODY.

All of them.  Whoever they are.

But there weren’t any decent tomatillos to be found.  None in a convenient two-block radius, at least.  Hey, I never said I was willing to go the extra mile for this salsa.  Just the extra two blocks.  So I commenced waiting…

Waiting…

Lurking…

More suspicious Lurking…

Waiting…

Until finally I was able to nab some fresh, locally grown, organic tomatillos.  Pretty convenient, actually–showed up in a kit with my CSA delivery, complete with a recipe that I didn’t end up using, since I already had one that was, oddly, pretty close to that one.

Anyhow.  Tomatillos.  Nom nom nom.  Actually, more like nom, ow, nom, eww, nom, spit.  ‘Cause tomatillos are hard little buggers that take a little softening up to bring out their delicious side.  A little cajoling.  A little persuading.  A little…something special.

Alright, so you dump in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, ‘kay?  Goooosh!

Let’s talk salsa.

We had this on steak last night.

Steak Before <cue sad trumpet noise that signals disappointment>:

Steak After <cue triumphant trumpeting>:

Whoah, yeah!  That steak is one prime suspect!  The crime?  Severe deliciousness!

It’s also great with chips, on burritos or enchiladas verdes (ooh, idea!  idea!), stirred into guacamole, or, oh hellz bellz, on eggs in the morning.  If I know The Boy, and I think I do, he’s going to come home from work (aka, that place that takes him away from me and causes me to cry and then actually get some work done and then cry some more) and stir this green heaven into vegetable juice for a spicy Bloody Mary.  He’s a genius, that there The Boy.

And not even a bit suspicious.

The Suspicious Salsa Verde to End All Suspicious Salsa Verdes (It’s the word of the day, guys, I kinda hafta take this all the way)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Suspicious Ingredients:

10 to 12 tomatillos, suspicious, of varying sizes, peeled
2 teeny suspicious-looking onions, peeled
1 small bunch cilantro leaves (suspicious)
3 cloves garlic (I suspect them…of making this salsa awesome! Oh ho ho!)
1/2 jalapeno, with seeds (this makes a solid medium heat salsa; use more or less, or leave out the seeds, depending on your preferences); the jalapeno isn’t suspicious.  It’s just flat out diabolical.
1/2 T. lime juice (not so suspicious)
salt to taste (I used about 1 tsp.) (suspicions abound!)
freshly ground black pepper (I used about 1/4 tsp.) (SUSPICIOUS!)
Suspicious Directions:

Gather your ingredients. Hey, everybody know what time it is?

Tool Time!

Wait, wait, wait…that’s not right.

Tomatillo Time!

Yes, I do realize there are only 10 tomatillos on my clock.  Tomatillo time knows no numeric restrictions.  It knows no rules.  It only knows what the heart wants.  And the heart wants what the heart wants.  And the heart wants salsa verde.

“Hey, guys!  Can we join?!”

“Group huddle!”

“Should we let the outsiders join our tomatillo party?”

“They’re clearly not tomatillos.”

“Come on, Frank, don’t be such a jerk.  They probably have booze.”

“We don’t need their booze.  And we don’t need them!  WE DON’T NEED ANYBODY!”

“Frank…”

“<sigh>…Okay, fine.”

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Tong the tomatillos (yes, I did just use tong as a verb), into the water and let ’em cook until they’re just a bit softened–it took about 6 minutes for me.  Tong them (there I go again!) into a bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Throw all the ingredients except the salt and pepper into a food processor and give it a good whir.  Now, some people like to leave their salsa verde chunky–I prefer mine to be a bit runnier than that, with a coarse, jelly-like texture.

Process your salsa accordingly.  Now throw in a bit of salt and pepper to taste and pulse the processor two or three times to incorporate it really well.

You can enjoy this right away, or let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before using.  Personally, I’m a fan of letting all those flavors sit and meld together.  But if you can’t wait, don’t beat yourself up about it.  I’ve been there, my misfits.  Oh, have I ever been there.

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Garlic Photo

Photo by Ian Britton at FreeFoto

12 cloves.  Yesterday, I risked twelve whole cloves of garlic, burying them in the neglected strip of marginal soil at the foot of our staircase.  Oh, I’m sure there are several legitimate protests running through your mind right now.

“But I’m wearing a winter coat!”

“Doesn’t she live in Chicago?”

“Can garlic grow through three feet of snow?”

“I’m too hungry/bored/sleepy/stabby to plant anything right now!”

All legitimate concerns, misfits.  But it’s possible.

As I was up late the other night scanning the Internet for dwarf apple tree porn, I came across a quick article about how planting garlic on the shortest day of the year is good luck.  Horticulturalists pretty much recommend going with shortly after your first frost.  I made neither, seeing as how I’m pretty sure my little scrap of earth will be under a considerable amount of snow by December 21st, and I was too late to plant it right after the first frost.

Meh–gardening is about managing chaos, not controlling nature, and rules were meant to be broken, right?

So you just plop the cloves, right side up, in their new little holes, four inches apart, 1 inch deep, cover ’em up, and be all, “See ya’ in the Spring, misfits!”  They hibernate all winter long and fly their teeny, tiny, little green freak flags after the ground thaws.

Freak flags: does your garlic have them?

A few months ago, I don’t know that I would’ve risked even one, shriveled, half-dead clove of garlic on our earth.  The Boy and I moved here at a tenuous time, not entirely sure how things would pan out for us in our new situation, not willing to put down any roots–literal or figurative–that we couldn’t take with us.

But you know what?  Nothing’s ever fixed, guaranteed, safe secure.  And life just isn’t the same without risk.  Because with risk comes hope.

The BMG can risk a little bit of now in hopes for a little more later.

What the BMG cannot do, is be fucking patient for once.

After I got home from a fall walk today I opened our gate and paused before my new garlic patch, looking for signs that something transformational had happened there.  The dirt still looked barren.  Perhaps a little darker from having been recently worked?  The leaves I’d piled there in a childish attempt to hide my expectations still lay on top, mostly undisturbed.  I thought about the generous bulbs I might pull from that spot a few seasons from now.  I thought about the twelve dried up cloves I might find if that earth fails to produce anything at all.  But in either case, that spot is going to be a gentle reminder that sometimes trust is rewarded with what we wanted, and sometimes it’s rewarded with a lesson.  But trust is always rewarded somehow, isn’t it?

At least, I think it makes us better to believe that it is.

Before I turned to go inside, I squinted my hardest at my little garlic plot, trying one more time to see the change.  And this time, I did.  It didn’t look fruitful.  It didn’t look productive, or green, or rich, or bountiful, or any of that.

But you know?  It did look kinda hopeful.

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Christmastime always makes your BMG think of Chinese food.

Now I know what you’re thinking–wow, her family probably never cooked; they probably ordered in Chinese for the holiday, what abuse, what misery, poor Bad Mama Genny!

Au contraire, my sweet misfit poppets, au contraire.

You see, I came from a family that dedicated itself to crafting the perfect holiday. Thanksgiving with 15 sides (3 different kinds of jello, but of course), Christmas with a family-style spread that required an extra 8-foot folding table to accommodate the selection, and a traditional Polish Christmas Eve Wigilia meal the night before–for a grand fucking whopping total of FIVE PEOPLE OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE WORKING SO HARD MY FINGERS ARE BLEEDING INTO THE FIGGY PUDDING OH THE HUMANITY.  So where does the Chinese food fit in?

Well, somewhere between my mother’s 3 AM panic attack over getting the house clean enough, my brother’s emotional breakdown at the tear we’d managed to rip in the universe which sent all the world’s dirty dishes to his sink, and my impromptu nap at the kitchen table, vegetable peeler still in hand, five pounds of potatoes down, only three more to go…well, irony of fucking ironies, we all got hungry. My aunt would pull out the Chinese takeout menu, and forty bucks later, we were a united front once again, happily chowing down on Moo Goo something-or-other and wondering how the hell we had ended up in this gelatinous, technicolored, gumdrop-studded, whirling, twirling gingerbread house of horrors. That, my friends, is why, as I was decking my halls and ho-ho-ho-ing my way through my cookie list, I was hit by an overwhelming–NAY–insatiable desire for Crab Rangoon. Enter today’s recipe.

I recommend eating these with the Christmas lights on, “Jingle Bells” playing in the background, and a sobbing family memb–but wait; that’s my house, not yours.

So indulge your mother’s compulsive need to include the three primary jello colors. Peel potatoes ’til you pass out (fine, so there MAY have been some gin involved, I can’t really say…).  Embrace the dog when she eats the blinking angel tree-topper (she looks kinda cute with her tummy periodically lighting up like that). The love will get you through. If not, well, there’s always that gin.

Crab Rangoon
Makes 48

Go Get:
1 package (48 count) wonton wrappers
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
6 oz. flaked crabmeat
2 green onions, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. each tamari or soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce
approx. 1/4 cup cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

Go Do:
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the wonton wrappers and the cooking oil.

Lay out a won ton wrapper with one of the points facing you.  Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, and spread it out to make a horizontal, log-like shape.  Resist the urge to overfill, as this will cause them to burst while cooking.

Using your finger, moisten the edges of the wonton with water, and fold the bottom half to the top, pressing all the edges to seal.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers.  Place the finished rangoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and, using a pastry brush dipped into the oil, lightly brush both sides of all the rangoon.

Put the rangoon into the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until both sides are pleasantly browned, flipping once halfway through cooking.  Allow them to cool for a few minutes before biting into them.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauces and sides.

 

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