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By Spertus Executive Chef Laura Frankel
At the Green City Market on June 13, Spertus Executive Chef Laura Frankel put passion and energy into the dishes she whipped up before the live audience. In 90-degree heat, Chef Laura removed her mic and ran from person-to-person holding up her pesto-filled mixing bowl to each outstretched face so that everyone would get to smell the notes of fresh spring garlic. Below is her explanation of the history of Jews and garlic, along with some of the recipes for her from her spring garlic demo.
You can catch her next demo, Shofar, So Good: Dishes for Rosh Hashanah, on September 10 at Spertus. She'll guide through varieties of local apples from the Green City Market, and then demonstrate (and have you taste) dishes perfect for a Jewish New Year's celebration. MORE>
Jews have had a long and tempestuous relationship with garlic. The Talmud suggests that men eat garlic on the Sabbath because Friday night was the night devoted to conjugal love. Ezra the Scribe, a Hebrew high priest who led the Jews back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile in the 5th century BCE, maintained that garlic “promotes love and arouses desire”. This pretty much says it all. However, garlic was also used as a means to disgrace Jews with the term foetor Judaicus or the “Jewish stench” of degeneracy, and the plant was used as an anti-Semitic stereotype.
Garlic, or allium sativum, is a species in the onion family. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic has been a staple in Asia and the Mediterranean. The plant has been used as to treat a variety of medical issues including stabilizing blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, and treating infections and cancer. Not only is garlic is a useful component in medicine, it’s great in the kitchen as well.
The phytochemicals produced when the garlic is “bruised” (chewed, chopped, or crushed) are the plants natural defenses. They are responsible for the “hot” pungent taste and strong lingering smell.
Most garlic used in home and professional kitchens has been dried, but spring garlic is my favorite garlic. Tender green shoots, a bulb with tiny cloves that don’t require peeling, and a soft and sweet garlic flavor makes spring garlic a standard in my spring culinary arsenal.
The Spring Garlic Pesto used in the recipes below is sweet, herbaceous, and not overwhelmingly garlicky. It is perfect schmeared on bread, dolloped on grilled steaks, or drizzled on fish or pasta. Make a large batch and freeze some for later this summer. Spring Garlic Pesto will keep frozen for up to 3 months.
Spring Garlic Pesto
Yields 1/2 cup
1/4 pound spring garlic, beard and tips removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon walnuts, toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
- Rough chop the garlic (using the green shoots and bulb) and basil. Place a large pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium-high heat. Quickly sear the garlic and basil leaves for about 10 seconds. This will help keep the color bright green, which is what you want.
- In a blender, mix the basil, spring garlic, and olive oil. Add the walnuts, salt, and pepper, and continue to blend until smooth.
Garlicky Potato Salad
1 pound fingerling or favorite potatoes
1/4 cup Spring Garlic Pesto
1/4 cup homemade or purchased mayonnaise
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small fennel bulb, shaved on a mandolin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Thoroughly rinse potatoes. Place in medium-sized saucepan and fill halfway with water.
- Bring saucepan to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain and cool completely.
- Whisk the pesto and mayonnaise together. Toss the potatoes, onions, carrots, and fennel together with pesto and mayonnaise.
- Add salt and black pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Pasta Primavera with Spring Garlic Pesto and Sautéed Garlic Scapes
1 pound favorite pasta (I prefer whole wheat penne), cooked al dente
1 pound favorite vegetables (I prefer beets, sugar snap peas, English peas, carrots, and spring onions) cooked or raw
Spring Garlic Pesto to taste
Extra virgin garlic olive oil
Several garlic scapes, cut into segments
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Garnishes: fresh herbs, parmesan or Pecorino Romano (optional)
- Grill or sautee garlic scapes. To sautee: Coat a medium-sized saucepan in olive oil. Place on medium-high heat. Add garlic scapes and sautee for 3-5 minutes until the scapes are very fragrant and have softened lightly. To grill: Heat grill to medium. Drizzle scapes with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper and place on the hot grill. Cook scapes for about 2-3 minutes until lightly charred.
- Toss pasta together with Spring Garlic Pesto, garlic scapes, salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs.