Seared Scallops and Barley Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans

I’ve discovered a new favorite food and it’s called barley. Barley is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency.  In addition to its robust flavor, barley’s claim to nutritional fame is based on its being a very good source of fiber and selenium, and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese. Barley is also good for keeping you “regular”, lowering cholesterol, and protecting your intestines.

This recipes was so easy to make and quite delicious. It’s refreshing and looks like it comes off the pages of a gourmet food mag. The pecans and cranberries, along with sliced scallions and fresh tarragon create a beautiful medley of colors among the canvas of barley. The seared scallops take only 2-3 minutes per side to get that beautiful coated color. A friend on Facebook asked if I would share the recipe so that she can make it for Valentine’s Day. This meal would be perfect.

INGREDIENTS for SCALLOPS

3/4 lb scallops (I used frozen and they tasted great, you just have to thaw them overnight)

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper for seasoning

2 tsp olive oil

INGREDIENTS for BARLEY

1 cup barley, cooked

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 scallions (green onions), sliced

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops (if using frozen, make sure they are thawed and dried) with salt and pepper. Brown scallops 2 – 3 minutes per side in hot oil until golden.
2. Make ahead. Cook barley according to package directions. Cool and combine with cranberries, pecans, olive oil, vinegar and green onions. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Allow to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Serve salad at room temperature topped with seared scallops. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon.

Serving size – about 4 (2-3 scallops per person and 1/3 cup of pilaf)

Seared scallops

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Grilled Corn, Cilantro, & Black Bean Salad with Balsamic Dressing

The other night I had this creative idea for turkey burgers. Instead of pairing the burgers with fries, I decided to go with a salad. I didn’t want a traditional leafy green salad, so I looked in my fridge at all the produce I bought this past weekend. I saw 4 ears of corn, Roma tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, and jalapenos. I went to my pantry and found a can of black beans. I searched around on Google for some recipes and after finding a few with these ingredients, I came up with the recipe below.

Not only is It refreshing, but very colorful and quick (less than 30 minutes). This is a great summer recipe and you can eat it warm or cold. It’d be a great side dish to bring to a picnic or BBQ.

INGREDIENTS

4 ears of corn

1 tablespoon of olive oil

15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

2 tsp jalapeno, chopped

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

FOR DRESSING

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat grill to high. Rub olive oil on the corn and grill, covered, for about 6-8 minutes. Continue to rotate the corn every 2 minutes for even cooking. Set aside to cool.(TIP: to get the corn cooked evenly, PRIOR to rubbing olive oil, wrap corn with damp paper towel and microwave two at a time for about 6 minutes. Let cool then rub the olive oil on the corn)

2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

3. Slice the corn off the cob and place in a bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, jalapenos, and black beans.

4. Add dressing and gently toss. Serve warm or cold.

Crab Cakes with Aioli Dipping Sauce and Spring Mix Salad with Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette

So for the past few days I’ve been craving crab cakes with a simple salad. Perhaps it was because two weeks before I had the BEST crab cakes ever at Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster  in Harlem, NY. Seriously, the crab cakes were delicious and awesome. It was pure Blue Crab meat.

Well I decided I wanted crab cakes for dinner last night, so I made some. I also wanted a simple mixed green salad with a good vinaigrette and I created a Garlic Dijon vinaigrette. It went perfect with the crab cakes and added a spiciness to the salad. I also added shave carrot curls and sliced red onions to my salad. This whole meal is simple, light, and easy meal to make. All for under 30 minutes. Try it out!

CRAB CAKES

1 large egg

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce

8 oz. Claw Crab meat (or any other kind of lump crab meat)

1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (I used Panko)

EASY AIOLI DIPPING SAUCE

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish mustard (I didn’t have horseradish mustard, so I used horseradish instead – still came out very tasty)

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 dash kosher salt (optional)

GARLIC DIJON VINAIGRETTE

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Gently combine all ingredients for crab cakes. Shape into 4 cakes (use 1/4 cup to measure out evenly).

2. Pan fry in 1/4 inch oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side.

3. Mix all dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl until well combined. (You can make this ahead and refrigerate, if you want to.)

4. For salad dressing, add all ingredients into a jar and shake until emulsified. Pour over salad and toss.

Macaroni & Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Some days you just want some comfort food and for me, macaroni and cheese is pretty much it. Ever since I started making this recipe, I can’t even stomach the idea of eating Kraft’s Mac n’ Cheese. Food & Wine Magazine sent me this cool little booklet titled “Our 20 Best Recipes Ever” and when I saw this recipe, I was in love. I’ve only made this recipe two times before, so I made it last Thursday and I made the Panko Crusted Chicken Thighs to go with it on Saturday.

The reason why this recipe is so good is that it uses two kinds of cheese: Sharp Cheddar and Colby Jack (the actual recipe call for Colby, but since I couldn’t find any, I used Colby Jack and it works excellently) that are cut into 1/2-inch cubes. One half of the cheese gets melted to make the sauce for the noodles, while the other half gets added to the dish prior to baking, so when you eat it later, you get these chunks of cheese mixed with the macaroni. So so so good.

INGREDIENTS

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound Colby Jack, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or use 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg if you don’t have fresh nutmeg)

Pinch of cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp each)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I used Panko instead)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Add the the flour and stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the half-and-half and cook, whisking, until thickened (about 3 minutes). Add half of the both the cheddar and Colby jack cheese and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the macaroni very well and return it to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and the remaining cubed cheese. Spread the macaroni into the prepared baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave. Add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and stir until evenly moistened. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the macaroni and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Here’s a picture of the Panko Crusted Chicken Thighs with a serving of the Macaroni and Cheese:

Friday’s Focus Ingredients #3: MINT

Mint is widely used in commercially manufactured products, cooking and medicine for its aromatic and flavorsome qualities. Peppermint is one of the most popular species and can be found in toothpaste, chewing gum, mouthwash, soaps, sweets, balms or creams and cough medicine.

Apart from peppermint, spearmint is probably the most widely used species of mint. It is not as strong as peppermint in flavor and is therefore used in cooking and added to sauces, dressings, cakes and can be added as a garnish to dishes.

MINT HISTORY

Mint is known to have originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region. In many cultures, mint symbolized hospitality and was offered as a sign of welcome and friendship to guests as they arrived. In the Middle East mint tea is still served to guests on their arrival, while in ancient Greece, the leaves of mint were rubbed onto the dining table, which was a sign of warm greeting.

Mint was also often used as an air freshener and was placed in the rooms of houses, synagogues and temples to clear and freshen the air and rid the smell of unpleasant odors from the room. The Greeks and the Romans used mint as a perfume and bath scent, as well as using it in medicine and in cooking.

Mint was so revered by the ancient Greeks that they named the plant after the mythical character Minthe. According to Greek myth, Minthe (or Menthe as she is also known) was a river nymph. Hades, the God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe and wanted to make her his lover. However, Persephone, Hades’s wife found out and in a fit of rage turned Minthe into a plant, so that everyone would walk all over her and trample her. Unable to undo the spell, Hades gave Minthe a wonderful aroma so that he could smell her and be near her when people trod on her.

MINT & HEALTH

Mint contains a number of vitamins and minerals, which are vital to maintain a healthy body. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin B2. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and may help to decrease the risk of certain cancers such as colon and rectal cancer. Although mint may be consumed in small quantities, the vital nutrients obtained are still beneficial to one’s health.

Mint also contains a wide range of essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.

Mint has always been used medicinally to aid digestion and relieve indigestion. If you suffer from frequent indigestion, drinking a cup of peppermint tea after your meal may help.

The chemical compound menthol, which is obtained from peppermint oil, is well known for its healing properties on the chest and respiratory system.

Mint is also said and in many cases proven to:

  • Relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome by relaxing the muscles in and around the intestine.
  • Act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body against the formation of cancerous cells.
  • Inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria and fungus.
  • Ease and unblock the breathing and respiratory passages and airways.
  • Relieves the symptoms of colds and flu.
  • Mint can help with nasal allergies.
  • It can relieve congestion, head colds and headaches.
  • Act as a mild sedative and has calming properties.
  • Relieve minor aches and pains such as muscle cramps and sprains.
  • Combat bad breath.
  • Provides a cooling sensation to the skin and can help to treat minor burns, itching and skin irritations.
  • Mint is a very good cleanser for the blood.
  • Mint tea can help clear up skin disorders such as acne

MINT STORAGE

The two most popular types of mint that you may use for cooking are peppermint and spearmint, with spearmint being the milder of the two. Mint is extremely popular in Middle Eastern cooking, especially Iranian and Lebanese cuisine, where it is used in an extensive range of sweet and savory dishes.

Fresh mint can be bought from your local supermarket and should be stored in the refrigerator for the best freshness. If you buy a bunch of mint, it should be placed in a container of water, stems down, with a plastic bag loosely covering the top. Ideally change the water every two days and the mint should stay fresh for up to a week.

Dried mint can also be bought but the flavor is so much more diluted.

MINT COOKING TIPS & HINTS

Here are some minty flavored recipes to try, whether you’re in the mood for a hot or cold drink, or something sweet or savory. Enjoy.

MINT JULEPS

2 cups water

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

32 fluid ounces Kentucky bourbon

8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow syrup to cool, approximately 1 hour. Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves

2. Fill eight cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1/4 cup mint syrup in each. (Proportions can be adjusted depending on each person’s sweet tooth). Top each cup with a mint sprig and a straw. Trim straws to just barely protrude from the top of the cups. Serve juleps on a silver platter.

FRESH MINT AND CILANTRO MELON SALAD

4 cups 1-inch chunks honeydew

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

white sugar to taste

Combine the honeydew, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and sugar in a bowl; toss to combine; refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

MASHED NEW POTATOES WITH FRESH MINT

2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl while they are still nice and hot. Add the chopped mint and mash so the potatoes are chunky and green in spots. Fold in the butter and stir everything together so the butter melts. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with a healthy amount of salt and pepper.

FRESH CHOCOLATE MINT DOUBLE CHIP COOKIES

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chocolate mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a baking sheet.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla slowly.

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and then add to the wet mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped mint and mix together until just combined.

Form the dough into 2 inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 9 minutes for chewy and 12 for crunchy. Cool on rack. Store in airtight container.

Additional usages for mint:

  • Add chopped mint to sauces for red meat, particularly lamb.
  • Add several sprigs of mint to peas, green beans or new potatoes while boiling.
  • Add mint to ahomemade or store-bought chocolate sauce for a chocolate and mint sauce.
  • Use as a garnish for cool drinks and fruit desserts.
  • Use dried peppermint leaves, added to boiling water to make a refreshing and digestive tea.
  • Make a yogurt dressing with chopped mint leaves, natural yogurt, garlic and salt and pepper for salads especially cucumber salad.
  • Add to cold soups or hot tomato soups.
  • Use to make curries.
  • Use mint to flavor cakes, meringues and biscuits.
  • Use to make a marinade for lamb.
  • The Middle Eastern salad dish, Tabbouleh contains mint, bulgur, parsley, red onions, tomato and lemon juice.
  • Add chopped mint to rice, chickpea, couscous or bean dishes.

Friday’s Focus Ingredients #2: GINGER

Ginger is by far one of my favorite ingredients to use. I’ve grown up eating plenty of ginger because my mom used a lot of it in the traditional dishes she made. Ginger is a staple in a lot of Asian dishes. Ginger is aromatic, pungent, and spicy and adds a lot of flavor.

The spice ginger is the underground rhizome (mass of roots) of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The plant’s botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera which means “horn shaped,” a physical characteristic that ginger reflects.

The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. The ginger rhizome has a firm, yet striated texture.

GINGER HISTORY

Native to southeastern Asia, a region whose cuisines still feature this wonderfully spicy herb, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties.

After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries.

Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe.

Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.

GINGER & HEALTH

Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract).

Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger can not only be warming on a cold day, but can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flus. A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification.

Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food.

GINGER STORAGE & SELECTION

Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol (anti-inflammatory compounds) as well as ginger’s active protease (its anti-inflammatory compound). Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold. Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, the more widely available type, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled.

Even through dried herbs and spices like ginger powder are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area.

Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger.

Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.

Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Alternatively, you can store it in the refrigerator where it will enjoy an extended shelf life of about one year.

GINGER COOKING TIPS & HINTS

To remove the skin from fresh mature ginger, peel with a paring knife. The ginger can then be sliced, minced or julienned. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler flavor while added near the end, it will deliver a more pungent taste.

RECIPES

Here are a few simple ginger recipes to try

Ginger-Orange Dressing

½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

¼ cup orange juice

4 teaspoons canola oil

1 tablespoon minced scallions

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

¼ teaspoon minced garlic

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk orange zest, orange juice, oil, scallions, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl until well blended. (Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small jar, secure the lid and shake until blended.)

Spinach, watercress and Belgian endive are good matches for this zesty dressing.

Ginger Cheesecake Dessert (from Betty Crocker)

1 pouch Betty Crocker® gingerbread cookie mix

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 tablespoon water

1 egg

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, water and egg until soft dough forms.

2. Make 5 cookies by shaping dough into 5 (1-inch) balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

3. Meanwhile, press remaining dough in pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. In large bowl, beat milk, cream cheese and lemon juice with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cookie base.

5. Crumble 5 baked cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled. Store covered in refrigerator.

Chicken with Ginger, Scallions, Cilantro, and Chili Peppers

*This is one of my go-to recipes I make for dinner – it’s delicious, fragrant, and spicy. I don’t normally use exact measures when making this dish, so you can add/subtract depending on how you want it. The amounts I list sound about right when I make it.

4 to 6 chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into stir-fry pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup to 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1 cup sliced mushrooms (baby bellas or white buttons are fine)

2 tbsp minced ginger

3 to 4 green scallions chopped

handful of cilantro chopped

2 to 3 Thai Chili peppers minced

1. In a large skillet or wok (preferred), add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic and let it saute for a 1-2 minutes. Add your chicken and cook until it’s no longer pink (6-8 minutes, stir constantly) – at this point, you can add a little salt to flavor the chicken, just a few pinches.

2. Once chicken is cooked, add tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or so until tomatoes are tender and can be “mashed” with a wooden spoon. Press down on tomatoes in pan lightly. Add ginger, scallions, cilantro, and peppers and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Additional Uses
  • Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
  • Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
  • Combine ginger, tamari, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
  • Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
  • Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
  • Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.

*I do have several dessert recipes that feature ginger and will add those later this month as the holiday nears 🙂

Friday’s Focus Ingredients #1: GARLIC

I love Iron Chef  and I love the “secret ingredient” challenges, so I am inspired to feature an ingredient weekly on my blog called “Friday’s Focus Ingredients”. With these ingredient posts, we’ll learn about the ingredient and discover its’ use in recipes. For my very first ingredient post, I’d like to focus on garlic.

GARLIC HISTORY

The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning “spear leek.” Dating back over 6,000 years, it is native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Garlic is one of the most versatile flavors to ever grace a kitchen. It not only tastes wonderful, but it’s very good for your body. Garlic (allium sativum) is dubbed The Stinking Rose, yet it is actually a member of the lily (Lilaceae) family and a cousin to leeks, chives, onions, and shallots.

Surprisingly, garlic was frowned upon by foodie snobs in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth century, being found almost exclusively in ethnic dishes in working-class neighborhoods. But, by 1940, America had embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a minor seasoning, but as a major ingredient in recipes.

Garlic crops are harvested in mid-July and hung in sheds to dry before reaching their prime in late-July/early-August.

There are over 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide. American garlic, with its white, papery skin and strong flavor is one of the most common varieties. Italian and Mexican garlic, both of which have pink- to purple-colored skins, are slightly milder-flavored varieties.

Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually.

GARLIC COOKING TIPS & HINTS

Believe it or not, one raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed releases more flavor than a dozen cooked whole cloves. When garlic cloves are cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. This nutty flavor makes a surprisingly nice addition to desserts, such as brownies or even ice cream.

Cooked, whole, unpierced cloves barely have any aroma at all, while raw garlic is the strongest in flavor. When sauteing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavor turns intensely bitter, and you’ll have to start over. If you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel garlic cloves before pressing, which can be a wonderful time-saver. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity.

If you don’t have a peeler, place the garlic on a cutting board on its side, and gently press down quickly with the flat side of a butcher knife. The skin should then easily peel off.

Garlic can also be purchased as peeled whole cloves or minced, both stored in olive or vegetable oil. It is imperative that garlic in oil be stored under refrigeration to avoid potentially-deadly botulism bacteria growth. If you use a lot of garlic and wish to cut your preparation time down, you can pre-peel and store your own in olive oil in the refrigerator, but the best flavor will come from freshly-peeled cloves. Use garlic powder, garlic salt, and garlic extract (juice) only as a last resort.

An easy rule of thumb to remember regarding the potency of the flavor of garlic is: The smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor.

GARLIC AND HEALTH

Garlic has long been considered a medicinal food. It was used to protect against plague by monks in the Middle Ages. Hippocrates used garlic vapors to treat cervical cancer. Garlic poultices were placed on wounds during World War II as an inexpensive, and apparently quite effective replacement for antibiotics which were scarce during wartime.

Now science is beginning to prove the medicinal properties of garlic that our ancestors took for granted. Studies have shown garlic can suppress the growth of tumors, and is a potent antioxidant good for cardiovascular health.

Other studies show garlic can reduce LDLs or “bad” cholesterol and is a good blood-thinning agent to avoid blood clots which could potentially lead to heart attack or stroke.

All of this natural medicine comes at a cost of only 4 calories per clove.

PLEASE NOTE: All information was taken from http://homecooking.about.com/ website

RECIPES

Here are a few simple recipes to try that features garlic as a big component.

Pasta with Garlic and Oil

This is one of the easiest and tastiest dishes imaginable. Slice garlic into thin, even slices – about three large cloves per person. Add enough good olive oil to almost cover the garlic. Sauté over medium heat until they begin to color. Pour over freshly cooked spaghetti or noodles, toss and serve.

Variations to try once you have made your initial assessment of the garlic:

  • Add dried chilies to the oil along with the garlic.
  • Add a handful of fresh chopped herbs to the pasta and garlic as you toss it.

Garlic Vinaigrette

Here is a classic recipe for a garlic salad dressing that goes well with a wide variety of salads.

1/4 cup pure apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
one or more cloves of garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced

Shake the first four ingredients together and taste. There should be a nice balance with no one ingredient dominating. Adjust if necessary, and then add the garli

Garlic Butter

One of my favorite places to eat when I was still living in Minnesota was Timberlodge Steakhouse (being in CA now, we don’t have those here) – this is an imitation of the garlic butter that they bring out with that delicious loaf of fresh baked honey wheat bread.

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 tsp finely chopped parsley

1 tsp garlic powder

Soften butter, make sure not to melt (best thing it to take the butter out and let it soften at room temparature)

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork – mash and stir. The texture should be stiff and not runny.

ADDITIONAL USES

  • When I make stir-frys, I always add about 2-3 minced garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute it for a minute or two before I add my protein
  • I make a simple brine using 2 quarts water, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2-3 garlic cloves (smashed and peeled), and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme – you can double, triple this recipe for the size of bird you’re using (I make this brine for BBQ Chicken using 6 chicken legs and thighs – still connected
  • If I buy store-bought spaghetti sauce, I’ll add about 1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic, or throw in 2 whole garlic cloves smashed and peeled
  • I add garlic salt to sauteed vegetables instead of using regular salt
  • For a simple dipping sauce for bread, add some fresh minced garlic with some olive oil
  • If making pizzas at home, add fresh minced garlic as one of your toppings