- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

With the change of seasons just around the corner, I’d like to share with you a simple secret to welcome spring into your home. Cook with garlic.

I bet that puzzles you. What does garlic have to do with springtime? The answer can be found in green garlic.

At this time of year, some growers harvest immature bulbs of garlic, commonly called green garlic, which you’re likely to find in farmers’ markets and well-stocked supermarkets. With their long, green leafy tops and slightly swollen white bulb ends in which the individual garlic cloves have not yet formed; you could easily mistake them for skinny leeks or fat scallions.

Unlike the powerful, pungent mature garlic most people are used to, green garlic has a very subtle, mild, even delicate flavor, like a cross between garlic and fresh chives. Most people who have trouble digesting regular garlic, or simply don’t enjoy its pungency, will find green garlic easy on the stomach, mild, and very pleasant.

I love to use green garlic in many ways. You can certainly mince up the bulb end and cook it in a little butter or oil as you would regular garlic to start a sauce, saute, stew, braise or stir-fry. Try green garlic raw as a seasoning in salad dressings or stuffing. Or puree it with butter as a spread for baked green garlic bread. Of course, I sometimes include it as a special addition to the pizzas I love to make.

For an unusual accompaniment to grilled meat, poultry or seafood, include green garlic as part of a platter of mixed grilled vegetables. Trim the bulb end and cut it diagonally into slices about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Brush the slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill several minutes per side until golden brown.

One of my favorite ways to cook with green garlic is to feature it in a creamy pureed soup like the recipe that follows. Use mostly the white bulbous part, including just a bit of the paler green stem parts for a hint of color if you like. Simmered an hour, along with potatoes that provide an earthy background flavor as well as playing the role of thickener, the soup is ready to puree and serve in no more than about half an hour. The soup may also be made ahead of time, cooled, refrigerated and reheated. (If green garlic is unavailable, try making the soup instead with regular peeled garlic cloves. To reduce their harshness, first blanch them: Put them in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes; then drain and proceed with the recipe.)

So head out now and round up some green garlic for your own springtime kitchen adventures.

CREAM OF GREEN GARLIC SOUP

Serves 4 to 6

3/4 pound coarsely chopped green garlic bulb

1 large baking potato, about 3/4 pound, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or good-quality canned chicken or vegetable broth

Salt

Freshly ground white pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips, optional garnish

3/4 cup small croutons, optional garnish

Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Put the green garlic, potato and chicken stock in a medium saucepan and season the liquid lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Stirring continuously, slowly pour the cream into the soup. Raise the heat slightly and continue cooking just until the liquid returns to a boil.

In batches if necessary to avoid overfilling and splattering, ladle the liquid and vegetables into a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Leave the lid or feed tube slightly ajar and drape a kitchen towel over it to help guard against splattering as well. Pulse the machine a few times, then process until the vegetables are smoothly pureed. Pour and scrape the contents into a clean saucepan. Repeat the pureeing process with any remaining batches.

Reheat the pureed soup over low heat. Taste the soup and, if necessary, add a little more salt and pepper.

To serve the soup, ladle it into heated serving bowls. If you like, scatter strips of prosciutto and croutons on top. Drizzle each serving with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network.

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