Quick Recipes and Easy

Bread and Garlic: Say that I Said So (William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure)

Garlic (Allium sativum) has always been looked upon as the greatest of protective herbs. It guarded wearers against vampires, the plague and evil spirits. Sailors wore it as a defense against shipwreck, mountaineers to preserve them from terrible weather and soldiers carried garlic to safeguard them from being thrashed by their enemies. Odysseus even used garlic to prevent Circe, the evil sorceress, from turning him into a pig.

The pre-Greek goddess of the Underworld, Hecate, who inflamed the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, was placated by garlic being eaten on festival days and by having the herb left at crossroads as a sacrifice in her name. The Greek historian, Herodotus (484 – 425BC), recorded that an Egyptian pyramid was inscribed with the amount of garlic consumed by the construction laborers.

Even die-hard doctors celebrate garlic’s medicinal qualities. In addition to the quantity sold in grocery stores, garlic is one of the consistently top selling herbal supplements in both the health food and mass market in North America. It’s the champion herb for lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is a powerful antibiotic: garlic juice applied to moss bandages was used to dress wounds during WW1.
Garlic is effective in treating bronchial and digestive infections and it also reduces blood sugar levels, helping in the treatment of late-onset diabetes. Its antifungal qualities make garlic an efficient combatter of yeast and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and candida. Cultures that ingest high amounts of garlic have significantly lower incidences of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The Japanese Journal of Cancer recently published the results of research studies indicating that garlic also protects against esophageal and stomach cancer.
The miracle constituent responsible for all this, along with garlic’s infamous odor, is a sulfur compound called allicin. Only when garlic is sliced or crushed do two ingredients, alliin and an enzyme, allinase, combine to form allicin. Potent as it is, allicin is unstable, and cooking reduces its efficacy. Raw garlic is best. All hail the Caesar salad!

Garlic is best planted in the fall for a summer crop. Cloves are quicker and simpler than seeds. Buy your bulbs from a local reputable grower who is familiar with strains that grow well in your area. Supermarket garlic is usually too ancient, may have been treated with chemicals and may originate from an unsuitable climate. Plant the cloves in rich, friable soil, about two inches deep and six inches apart. As with all alliums, garlic is a heavy feeder so the soil should be amended with compost or other well-rotted organic matter. Care, harvest and store your garlic as you do your onions.

When sautéing garlic be careful not to overcook, as it will become bitter. If cooking with onions, always sauté the onions for several minutes before adding the garlic. The cloves will peel simpler if they’re lightly crushed first with the heel of your hand. Roasted garlic adds a wonderful nutty flavor to foods, such as mashed potatoes, soups and sauces. Experience has taught me that the ideal timing for roasted garlic is 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.

Garlic recipes abound and everyone has their favorite. Mine is the following Garlic Soup, matched with freshly baked herb bread. Shakespeare said so.

6 cups of cooled chicken stock, preferably homemade and organic. Vegetarians may substitute vegetable stock.

2-3 bulbs of garlic, peeled, and again, preferably organic.

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks (or 1 tsp. dried).

½ cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

4 egg yolks.

Sea salt to taste.

Place one cup of the stock in the blender along with the garlic and thyme. Blend until smooth. Reserve one cup of the stock and add the remaining four cups to a non-reactive pot with the garlic/thyme mixture. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Meanwhile add the cheese and the egg yolks to the reserved cup of stock and blend thoroughly. Slowly add this mixture to the soup, raising the heat to bring it back to simmer quickly. Stir continuously while the soup thickens. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately with a small parsley for garnish. You can get creative with this soup by adding some fresh prawns or shrimp, or any suitable ingredient of your choice.
Garlic is prevalent in Indonesian cuisine. The following recipe is best served with rice and a stir-fried vegetable such as red cabbage sautéed with apples.

Indonesian Garlic Chicken

4 large boneless chicken breasts, skin on

6 garlic cloves, crushed

½ an onion, diced

2 tsp. hot chili paste

½ cup of natural, crunch peanut butter

½ cup of shredded coconut

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. ginger tamari sauce (soy sauce may be substituted)

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup of chicken stock

Sauté the chicken on both sides over medium-high heat in two Tbsp. of the olive oil. Remove the chicken from the pan and sauté the onion until translucent, adding the garlic for the last couple of minutes. Add more oil to the pan if required. Add the ginger tamari sauce, the lemon juice and the chili paste to the pan. Stir well while adding the chicken stock and the peanut butter. Thoroughly blend all the ingredients before returning the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicken is well done. Stir the sauce occasionally to prevent from sticking. While the chicken is cooking, toast the coconut in a small, dry frying pan over a medium-high heat until it is golden, about five minutes. Stir continually to prevent burning. Serve the chicken with the sauce over a bed of rice and sprinkle the coconut over the top.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing. Bruce and his wife Delaine own Olivia’s Fashion, Furnishings & Gifts ( olivias.ca/ olivias.ca/) in Ladysmith, BC Canada. Read more published articles by Bruce Burnett on his websites: bruceburnett.ca/ bruceburnett.ca/ and herbalcuisine.com/ herbalcuisine.com/

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