Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh, that smell

The stink that is spring is perfuming every market currently. No, I am not referring to the floral notes of Lily of the Valley or the seductive sortie of a cluster of phlox. Rather it is time to buy all those yet-to-be papery-coated garlic bulbs and fragrant your dishes with spring’s tender, completely usable garlic. Right now they should look like very large scallions with perhaps the start of a flower bud showing. At this point in garlic’s maturation the plant is 100% edible – that’s right from root hairs to tip.

I snip off the roots and store them in the freezer, and come winter I throw them into soups and stews for an ethereal garlic note. Otherwise, the rest of the plant is not safe from the slashing of my knife. It needs little to no cooking and is far gentler in flavor than is fully developed parent. Once the flower bud fully forms and opens the stalk of the garlic becomes tough and is no longer suitable for eating. However, that stalk still contains plenty of scent, and I will make a garlicky stock for soups, risottos or for storage in the freezer for a future fancy. So, for now I am chopping up garlic with reckless abandon into every salad, stir-fry, pasta dish I make.

Lamb Ragout - serves 6

1/2 pound Coarsely Ground Lamb
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 spring garlic - chopped
1 Tablespoon Red Chili Flakes
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 cup Red Wine
16 oz canned peeled whole Tomatoes
2 Red Peppers - roasted, peeled, seeded and sliced thin julienne
1 pound Spinach - washed and roughly torn
1/4 cup Black Olives - pitted (such as Kalamata, Nicoise or Gaeta)
1/4 cup Pine Nuts - lightly toasted
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese - grated
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a heavy lined pan to hot, and add the oil. Cook the garlic, chili flakes and bay leaves for a few minutes. Add in the ground lamb, stirring, until browned. Pour in the wine and reduce for a few minutes until its syrupy. Mix in the tomatoes and peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Mix in remaining ingredients and cook an additional 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning and serve over your favorite pasta or toasted bread.

No comments: