Kind? If you are thinking this is an odd question, you’ve got another great reason to shop at your local farmer’s market— unbelievable variety! For instance, my CSA farmer Bruce (AKA the KING of GARLIC at our market) grows at least nine varieties of garlic every year. Depending on what you are cooking, there’s bound to be the perfect garlic for your dish.
Of course, all that variety can be a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to the farmer’s market and/or new to cooking from scratch. But farmers like Bruce have you covered. He hands out a great little cheat sheet produced by The Garlic Press that explains all the varieties, their flavors and best uses. As I’ve intimated many times, your local farmer is your best friend when it comes to new ingredients. And, best of all, he or she is right there to answer questions, allow you to sniff and even taste, if you need–the absolute ultimate in customer service.
So what kind of garlic did I buy? You know me… I always buy at least three different kinds every trip. Now that garlic has gone from “fresh” to “storable,” I try to put away a few bulbs each week for my winter stockpile. If I buy the right kind and keep it cool and dry in a fairly dark place, I will have garlic through the first of the year.
Purple Italian, a deep russet purple-skinned bulb has large cloves, a pungent yet sweet favor and keeps very well, if stored properly. Perfect for pasta dishes and other Mediterranean fare. Bruce swears by Persian Star, a purple-striped, long-storing variety that is great for roasting. Spanish Roja also has a fairly long shelf-life, about three to four months. Brown and red cloves are good size and impart classic garlic flavor that might make your next paella the hit of the party.
For the extra heat and spice I will need to make that one last batch of gazpacho and my all-time favorite homemade condiment Harissa, (We will be talking about these two dishes next time—fire extinguisher nearby!) I need a bolder variety—Bogatyr and Music for that gazpacho and good old Uncle Dave’s for the lethal yet heavenly Harissa. Uncle Dave’s will also store very well.
This week I’m concentrating on green beans, which have shown up again as a fall crop. Besides getting some to put away in the freezer for vegetable soup this winter, I’m using some this week in a simple comfort dish from one of my favorite healthy chefs—Christina Pirello from Christina Cooks on PBS. Her personal story of survival by diet is amazing, and her recipes are scrumptious.
Pirello’s recipe from Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Whole Foods but Were Afraid to Ask calls for one head of roasted garlic. For this I chose Georgian Crystal with its smooth buttery flavor and consistency. The cloves are extra-large for easy roasting. Another good choice might have been Armenian, for which roasting brings out a full-bodied garlic flavor. But buttery won.
For Garlic Frenched Green Beans, you will need:
- One head of large garlic (Georgian Crystal or Armenian)
- One to two pounds of green beans (I used French Fillet, which are thin and very tender, so I did not halve lengthwise, see below.*)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Two tablespoons water (Pirello suggests spring or filtered)
- Sea salt
- Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top off the garlic head and place in a small baking dish or on a square of foil. Drizzle lightly with oil and cover, or if using foil, wrap tightly. Bake one hour, until very tender. Set aside to cool.
When the garlic has cooled enough to handle, squeeze the pulp from the cloves. You should have about two tablespoons. (I had a little more, as Georgian Crystal is quite large, usually. But who complains about extra garlic?) Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Halve the green beans lengthwise, and boil until crisp-tender, about five minutes*. (My husband prefers them softer, so 10 minutes for us.) Drain well.
Place about three tablespoons oil, the garlic pulp and water in a skillet over medium heat. (I mixed this altogether in a small bowl before adding to the skillet to achieve the consistency of butter, which melted beautifully in the skillet.) Season lightly with salt and add the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until a smooth paste forms. Stir in the green beans and cook, stirring, until coated, about one minute. Transfer to serving platter and serve hot.
Now Christina Pirello is a vegan chef; however, I live with a meat-eater. So, of course, Don had to add…. Yep…. BACON to his. And a little parmesan cheese. While the vegetarian in my turns white at the thought of the bacon, I must admit the parmesan caught my attention. Another thought I had was toasted chopped almonds for crunch. What do you think?
How are you using your garlic this week? What kinds are your favorites?