Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Organic garlic and gardening escapades

I think it would be fair to say that for most of us, garlic is just garlic. Unfortunately, our culinary knowledge is mostly formed by what's available in supermarkets so here in North America we are ignorant at the best of times. So you can imagine my surprise when I volunteered at Amarosia Organic garden and was put to the tast of sorting through a dozen varieties of garlic.

That wet and cold day was the first time I've ever been able to chat with my friendly neighbourhood organic gardeners. They're winding down their season now so can finally take a breath only to find themselves blathering on with me about topics as varied as farm economics to long-distance familial relationships. Besides the cold, it was a great day. And Rowena was kind enough to send me home with a knob of horseradish, a few garlic cloves and some Russian cooking tomatoes who's exact name I forget.

Now the catch was that I had to sample the garlic raw in order to really appreciate the different characteristics of each garlic variety. So to the utter displeasure of my girlfriend, I munched on some raw garlic whilst preparing a super garlicky tomato sauce. Here are my impressions of the different varieties I sampled raw: 1) the hot and spicy variety was rather mild with only a slight spice; 2) on the other hand, the roja variety had a good spicy kick and it's taste was reminiscent of green onions; 3) finally, the music variety of large garlic cloves was also spicy with an almost fruity aftertaste which was quite pleasant. As for the other varieties, they went unlabelled so I couldn't really tell you what their individual characteristics are. Best talk to Rowena.

Seeing as I was graced with so much garlic, horseradish and cooking tomatoes, my obvious reaction was to make a tomato sauce for our farmer's market bought ravioli. I first sweated an onion along with some celery, then added the dozen chopped cooking tomatoes, some fresh horseradish, oregano, thyme, a bit of anchovy paste, a splash of white wine, salt and pepper. Now seeing as Rowena had advised me that the garlic varieties lose their individuality once cooked, I chose to "infuse" the garlic into the sauce rather than cook it. What I mean by that is that I cooked the sauce till the tomatoes had broken up and everything was reduced, took the pot off the fire, and stirred the half dozen sliced garlic cloves into the sauce. So they didn't really cook. The sauce was more like the hot water and the garlic was the tea...if that makes any sense.

Along with handmade fresh ravioli, a good handful of grated grated parmesan, capers, and a glug of quality cold pressed olive oil, this was a smashing albight stinky success. I love garlic.

Thanks Rowena.

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