Categories
Kitchen Tools Recipes

For the Love of Garlic

Fresh garlic is a wonderful thing. Did you know that if you rub a garlic clove over the bottom of your feet you will soon have garlic breath? But I prefer my garlic to not have touched feet, and instead cook with it frequently. However, we can’t always find fresh garlic, and frankly, even when we can, we’re admittedly a bit lazy when it comes to peeling garlic and mincing it each time we want to use some.

The solution we’ve come up with is to make our own jars of minced garlic, which requires extensive effort only once every six months or so.

We start with a big bag of fresh garlic – typically 5-8 pounts (2.5 to 3.5 kilograms), and then park ourselves in front of the TV with a movie while we remove all the “paper” from the garlic and separate all the cloves from each other. For our most recent “garlic night”, we rented a download of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” from iTunes, based on a comment that due to all my gadgets I was becoming more like Steve Zissou every day. We collectively agreed that the movie was a dud. But we were still peeling garlic, now removing the skin from the cloves, so we watched the latest episode of Fringe, also courtesy of iTunes.

After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves
After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves

After we had naked cloves, the next step was to remove the hard little nubs at the end of the cloves as well as any noticeable blemishes.

Once that was complete it was time to mince the garlic. Doing it all by hand would take forever, so we use mechanical processes to mince our garlic. We have used food processors in the past, but find that they puree the garlic too much, plus with the amount we typically make during our “garlic nights” we have to keep emptying the machine too often. The solution we have settled on is the grinder option of our KitchenAid – the same thing you would use to grind meat, for example.

Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic
Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic

It’s still time consuming, since you can only feed a few cloves of garlic at a time into the opening of the grinder accessory, but it produces a constant flow of minced garlic.

The KitchenAid grinding garlic
The KitchenAid grinding garlic

Once all the garlic has been ground, we liberally mix it with a neutral tasting oil, such as canola oil, and sea salt. The oil and salt act as preservatives to prevent a deterioration of flavor due to oxidation. You can use olive oil as well, but that tends to impart a strong flavor to the garlic, and could affect the flavor of foods you cook with the garlic unless those foods already include the use of olives or olive oil.

The garlic/oil/salt blend is then used to fill jars that we have collected. I will oil the jar a little bit first, then add garlic up to the last half-inch, and then pour more oil on top to create a better seal against air.

Note that over time the jarred garlic will turn brown, but that does not impact its flavor negatively at all.

The end result - jars of minced garlic
The end result - jars of minced garlic

The amount of garlic pictured above will last us about 6-9 months of regular cooking.

One additional tip – take a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and blend it with a cup of mayonnaise to create a quick and dirty garlic aioli.

Categories
Recipes

Spicy Green Beans

I’ve always had a special place in my heart (or is it my stomach?) for Asian foods, whether it be Korean BBQ, Thai curries, Japanese sashimi and Shabu-Shabu, Taiwanese pork intestines, or most anything from the Hunan or Szechuan provinces of China.

Since moving to Bonaire over 12 years ago, I’ve also discovered foods and ingredients with an Indonesian background. That’s because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, and Indonesians have become an integral part of Dutch society, including the Dutch Antilles, which is where Bonaire fits into the Dutch Kingdom.

Among my favorite Indonesian ingredients to cook with are Ketjap Manis and Sambal Oelek.

Ketjap, also known as Kecap or Ketsap, refers to a sauce used for cooking or as a condiment. You may note the similarity to the English word Ketchup (or “Catsup”, as it was originally known). Indonesian Ketjap is soy-based, with Ketjap Asin (Asian Ketchup) being what we know as regular soy sauce, and Ketjap Manis being a sweet, thicker soy sauce. “Manis” means sweet in Indonesian.

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex
Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Thus, Ketjap Manis is a sweet soy sauce. You can simulate ketjap manis using regular soy sauce and cooking it with brown sugar and molasses as well, although I find authentic Ketjap Manis to still be better (and easier) to use than concocting something similar out of regular soy sauce. There’s a certain texture and flavor that Ketjap Manis imparts to foods that is tough to match.

Sambal refers to a family of condiments which contain spicy chili peppers. Sambal Manis, for example, is a pepper relish which is sweet and spicy. I have also tried Sambal Badjak, Sambal Brandal, and Sambal Oelek. Some sambals are made with fish paste or vinegar or tomatoes. The one I tend to see in greatest quantity, however, is Sambal Oelek (also spelled Ulek), which is spicier and has a bit of extra saltiness (at least the brand I use).

Sambal Oelek from Conimex
Sambal Oelek from Conimex

I’ve always been a fan of spice, and discovering sambals in all forms and flavors was a real treat.

All this brings me to the fact that if you combine sambal oelek and ketjap manis, you get a great spicy-sweet soy-based sauce which is great as a marinade or even a cooking sauce. (Note: It makes a great rib marinade!)

And that in turn brings me to today’s incredibly easy recipe (providing you have a source for ketjap manis and sambal oelek) – spicy green beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 cup of ketjap manis
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Nip off the hard end bits of the green beans and put the resulting green beans aside (and throw out the hard end bits, of course).
  • Heat the peanut oil (or use another nut oil like sunflower or canola) in a large sauce pan on medium high heat – the purpose of this oil it merely to lubricate the pan and beans a bit.
  • Add the green beans and let sizzle for a minute or two.
  • Add the water – this will help cook the beans a little more thoroughly via steam. The water should ultimately all boil off.
  • Once the water is mostly gone, add the garlic and sambal oelek and stir them to thoroughly mix them with the green beans.
  • Add the ketjap manis and stir some more.
  • Cook until the ketjap manis starts to bubble and caramelize.
  • At this point your green beans should still be cooked but not mushy. If you like mushy green beans, turn down the heat and cook longer (perhaps adding a bit more water).
  • Remove from heat and serve.

To make more spicy add more sambal oelek. To make less spicy, add less.

Serve hot either as a main dish or as a side dish with other Asian-themed food. If you like the flavor of soy as well as that of spicy peppers you should truly enjoy this dish. The sweetness of the ketjap manis provides a great counterpoint to the salty-spice of the rest of the dish, and slightly crisp green beans enhance the dish further with their texture

Categories
Recipes Simple Pleasures

My Favorite Hot Dip

I’ve already mentioned one of my favorite versatile food items is mayonnaise. And when I cook savory dishes, I find myself eagerly looking towards garlic as one of my ingredients.

That’s why it’s probably no surprise that my favorite hot dip combines mayonnaise and garlic, and to provide some substance, it also includes Parmesan cheese and artichoke hearts. And it’s incredibly easy to make, although I have not come up with a good and short name for the Garlic Parmesan Artichoke Mayo Dip.

First, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).

Then, get a baking dish, and then combine equal portions (by volume) of grated Parmesan cheese (like Kraft’s), canned artichoke hearts, and mayonnaise. I usually use a cup of each.

Then add as much minced garlic as you think you can handle. I personally add 10-20 cloves depending on whether I will be meeting with others the next day (less cloves if I like the people I’m meeting, more if I don’t or am not meeting with anyone). I should add that while you can sometimes buy minced garlic at the supermarket, the acidic liquid they package it in robs the garlic of a lot of its pungency, so I prefer fresh or at least some of the garlic that I have pre-minced and stored in oil with salt for later use.

After you have thoroughly blended all the ingredients and smoothed out the top to make it nice and flat, pop the baking dish into the oven and cooking until the top is a nice light to medium brown color. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 15 minutes.

Serve with something nice and crisp. Folks who eat carbs might enjoy it with tortilla chips, pita chips, or toasted wafers of baguette. Low carbers can use cucumber slices or pork rinds. At home we also use the dip as a condiment for meats like steak or pork.

The Garlic Parmesan Artichoke Mayo Dip is also a great thing to bring to pot-lucks and BBQs.