A Day of Cooking Adventures Part 2

Our culinary adventure (see Pt. 1) began with the decision to turn Spicy Mediterranean Olives with Garlic & Herbs (p. 42 of Garlic, Garlic, Garlic) into non-spicy olives by eliminating the chile peppers. We also had to half the recipe because we had only acquired 2 cups of olives. I measured out the oil, vinegar, ground black pepper, and fennel seed, then attacked a lemon and an orange for their zest. I also minced the zests even though that’s not part of the recipe. Oops! I also cut each garlic clove more than once, so there are several slices in the marinade. The ingredients (except for the olive oil) all went in a pot to boil and then simmer for a few minutes.

sliced garlic cloves, fennel seed, orange and lemon zests, and vinegar in a reflective potThe color – and the smell! – were amazing.

Once that mixture was ready, I added the olive oil, followed soon-after by the olives themselves. I had to double the amount of vinegar and oil in order to make sure the olives were covered by the marinade. I then learned that I did not have the rosemary the recipe calls for, so I sprinkled on a blend of Italian herbs: oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage. This concoction was then well stirred and placed in a sealed container to marinade for 24 hours. We’ve been taking turns stirring it periodically.

Next up were the Marinated Roasted Red (Orange, and Yellow) Peppers with Garlic and Anchovies (p. 62). Garlicturino86 (henceforth to be referred to as GT8) had a blast smashing and mincing 5 garlic cloves.

GT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watchGT8 smashes a clove of garlic under his knife while soon-to-be victims watch on

I measured the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. GT8 passed me bell peppers and I placed the in the oven to roast. I doubt the contents of the oven have ever been so colorful!

They don’t know what they’re in for …

While the peppers roasted, and later cooled, we set to work on the third and final recipe for the evening: Beer-Braised Shrimp with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce (p. 56). Sadly, this recipe was not without injury. GT8’s eyes were too irritated by the process of mincing the shallot, so I took over. Somehow I managed to catch my thumb nail with the knife, removing part of it! (Thank goodness it was just a shallow cut, and the rest of the thumb remained intact.) I now have a raw, red spot where I used to have a nail; it is extremely sensitive to the touch. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more painful cut, and the worst part is that completely random movements that are normally painless hurt horribly.

This minor setback did not deter our cooking insanity, however. The beer, garlic, shrimp, and other ingredients all went into the pot. GT8 informed me that regular salt is stronger than the Kosher salt the recipe calls for just in time for me to use only 3/4 the amount the recipe calls for. We brought our concoction to a boil and let it simmer until the shrimp turned pink. When I removed the cover I was greeted with the fantastic smell of beer and garlic, oh, it was amazing!

A pot with seasoned beer and shrimp, cooked and bubblingIt smells even better than it looks!

The recipe also calls for a creamy dipping sauce of yogurt and sour cream mixed with 2 different types of mustard, garlic (of course!), Worcestershire sauce, and the whole zest of a lemon (minced – I let GT8 do that). Mixing that mess together was rather entertaining, but the results were well worth it: nice and tasty, with quite the kick! The dipping sauce and shrimp in their beer mixture went into the refrigerator to chill overnight. I felt very proud as I cleaned the edges of the bowl for the dipping sauce and contemplated serving the dish the next day.

Finally, we had the gooey and slimy task of removing the skins from the roasted peppers. It was gross and fun at the same time. As I removed the skins, GT8 cut the peppers, removed their innards, and laid them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. He sprinkled smashed and minced garlic over them, followed by half the oil and all of the balsamic vinegar. We baked them for 10 minutes, then added julienned basil. After a quick photo shoot, they went into a bowl with the remaining oil to marinade overnight. Two of the slices most certainly were not stolen, and they weren’t absolutely delicious!

Roasted Peppers fresh out of the ovenFinally complete, the roasted peppers are as delicious as they are beautiful.

Now it is the next day. Guests should begin arriving soon. And there’s more cooking to do! This should be quite entertaining …

A Day of Cooking Adventures

Today garlicturino86 and I had some rather crazy cooking-related adventures. They began with going through the cookbook: Garlic, Garlic, Garlic and discussing which recipes would and would not be practical for a gathering planned for the next day. I had already picked recipes I was interested in trying. I then narrowed down the options based on my comfort level and the needs and preferences of my anticipated guests, some of whom have food allergies. Further discussion eliminated recipes such as the garlic walnut bread with rosemary, a recipe that calls for equipment I don’t have, and confirmed the ones that would be best for our gathering. Even the confirmed recipes required modifications or substitutions. I was surprised by how much work went into simply deciding what to cook for my friends.

Once we had looked at the ingredients for each recipe and created a shopping list, garlicturino86 and I ventured forth to a new grocery store! There we found our way through previously-unexplored aisles of various items, mostly selecting ones that were relevant to my goal of filling an entire neighborhood with the savory aroma of garlic (and other tasty things). We were able to find everything we needed … except for the cerignola olives I wanted to be part of my Spicy Mediterranean Olives with Garlic & Herbs (p. 42). I’d tasted some black cerignola olives at a holiday party and absolutely loved them. So, they seemed well worth traveling out of my way to visit a specialty Italian store.

This is where things started getting interesting. garlicturino86’s mom suggested one store, which seemed excellent but only had one small jar of red cerignola olives. I was hoping to find black ones, so I decided to try somewhere else. So, I searched for a store on my trusty GPS (which really should have the GLaDOS voice) and traveled a couple of miles in the opposite direction, just to find that the store was closed.

Not to be deterred, I searched for another store. Avoiding tolls, the route my GPS suggested would have taken far too long. So, I searched allowing tolls, and found a considerably shorter route. Then next thing I knew I was going over a bridge with a $12 toll and entering another state! That was completely unacceptable, but the only thing I could have done about it was make a highly illegal U-turn across multiple lanes! So instead I yelled and became positively determined not to leave my new location until I was in possession of olives.

garlicturino86 then discovered that a fourth store, which we had previously ruled out due to its location, was actually located a stone’s throw away from where we had come off the bridge. We drove, parked, and hurried up to it – to discover they were in the process of closing. “No, please let us buy olives before you close!” we called, rushing into the store. The gentleman there only had green cerignola olives, but I gladly bought them mixed with other olives as part of a medley. One bite was enough to satisfy my olive craving. We had completed our quest! garlicturino86 invited me to celebrate with him by sharing the prosciutto bread he had just purchased at the same store.

By the time we arrived home we were exhausted and laden with a million groceries. They found their homes surprisingly quickly, and then we embarked on a culinary adventure. I would love to share that adventure with you, reader, but garlicturino86 wants to sleep for some odd reason.

About this Blog

Hello and welcome to “How I learned to stop worrying and love the garlic.” This blog was partially inspired by the movie, Julie & Julia, in which Julie Powell keeps a blog while attempting to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s first cookbook. More importantly, it was also inspired by fun experiences cooking with my best friend – who came up with the blog title – and with my fiancé. We’re all from predominantly Italian-American families, so we share a deep love for good food, good company, and (of course) garlic.

Garlic will be an ingredient in most of the recipes we share here, often a key ingredient. It is not, however, the main focus of the blog. The focus will be more on the processes of cooking and tweaking recipes to better meet our needs and preferences. We’ll share our adventures, success stories, and amusing or insight-inducing failures. Some of the recipes have been passed down to us by our mothers; others we developed on our own or found in cookbooks or online. Whenever possible, we’ll share at least the ingredients list and/or source of the recipe. Be prepared for a pinch of this, a splash of that, and “to taste.”

Cooking is a wonderful adventure. It allows us to know exactly what we are eating and to choose healthy ingredients – well, most of the time! It is a creative process that can be wonderfully stimulating to all five senses. Best of all, the experience and/or results of slaving over a hot stove can be shared with loved ones. Few things feel better than having someone I care about say “this is delicious,” grin broadly, and take a second helping of the meal I just prepared. Food nourishes the body. Sharing it with loved ones nourishes the soul.

We hope you will enjoy reading this blog as much as we enjoy writing it.

Buon appetito!

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