Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Solving the garlic problem

I love growing garlic the way some people love growing roses. But I have a problem. I harvested close to 200 heads of garlic this year. 15% of the crop went into seed for next year’s crop, and I probably gave away another 20%. That still leaves 130 heads of garlic to eat.

And there is another problem. The stiff necked garlic starts to go bad by the end of January. The cloves start to grow little roots and sprout as if they were deep underground. You can forestall this with proper curing and storage, but not much past February. I need to use it up or lose it. I will still have braids of soft necked garlic to take me through the spring, but in my use or lose bin right now are many smallish heads of stiff necked that were not suitable for gifts nor seed. It is time to make soup.

In Italy and Provence garlic soup is a staple of the diet. Aïgo Bouïdo is a very simple concoction of water, garlic, sage and an egg yolk. It can be quite hearty all by itself when it is poured over French bread sprinkled with a little Parmesan. It can also serve as a stock for other soups. I like mine straight.

I gathered 10 heads of garlic and retrieved my rolling rubber garlic peeler from the drawer. I insert 10 cloves and roll smartly on the counter and out come the naked cloves. It saves a lot of time.

There is another, more elegant garlic soup recipe put together by Susan Spicer the chef at Bayona in New Orleans. It’s more work, but it sure is tasty.
Here is the simpler, peasant version of Mediterranean garlic soup

Aïgo Bouïdo

  1. 4-1/3 cups water

  2. 6 garlic cloves, crushed (I used nearly 100 cloves)

  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt

  4. small sprig of fresh sage

  5. small sprig of fresh thyme

  6. 1 egg yolk

  7. 6 slices of French bread, brushed with olive oil
1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the garlic and salt and boil for another 10 minutes. 2. Add the herbs. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the herbs to steep for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the herbs. Blend the yolk with some of the cooled broth, and then stir it back into the soup to thicken it.4. Place the oiled bread into the soup bowls, pour the soup over the bread and serve immediately.

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