Culinary Corner: Ah, a rose by any other name...

August 16, 2012 

Just about anything is preferable to sitting and working on the computer. I’d rather be chopping and shredding, prepping to cook in the kitchen or over a campfire. These days my “finest hours” are spent pruning and weeding with friends in the garden at the Cambria Historical Museum. It is satisfying and gratifying, because everyone seems to appreciate the results from this labor of love (accent on the labor) as much as I do.

The most frequently asked question lately is, “What are those gigantic flowers?” Well, they are the blooms of elephant garlic, and you’ll have to look quickly before they are gone, as we are harvesting the garlic as we speak. In the leek family, they are Allium Ampeloprasum; and as the name implies, each head of four-to-seven cloves is as dramatic as the 6-to 8-foot tall blossoms. The flavor, however, is milder than the traditional ones, and that’s what appeals to me because previously I never liked or cooked with it.

Stop by and purchase some at our nursery or bookstore, which will benefit our ongoing garden fund, and we’ll include a sheet of information for you.

They are delicious raw, minced into vinaigrette, or stirred into pesto or salsa. We recommend cooking with some, and planting some like daffodils so you too can have drama in your garden in the years to come. Remember, they are historic, because we think they have grown on the property for almost 100 years.

Michael Rice, our head gardener, recommends cleaning them well but leaving on the skin, then slather with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and seal in foil. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and allow to cool in the foil. (Mike loves to do this in his campfire.) Squeeze the flesh out of the skin to use as a spread on crackers or toasted baguettes, stir some into mashed potatoes, or mix with sour cream or Parmesan cheese for baked potato toppings.

The last time I sat on the north shore of Oahu and had fresh garlic shrimp from a Hawaiian stand by the shrimp ponds and smelled the aroma of the grilled version, it made a convert out of me. My daughter Kathy and I finished every drop of our paper-bowl portion! So when I returned to Cambria I developed these recipes:

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp n’ Butter

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. sea salt

2 large cloves of elephant garlic, or regular

1/2-to-1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

Sweet paprika

Over medium low heat, sauté chopped garlic in butter, oil and salt, only until slightly golden; do not brown or it will turn bitter. Add in the shrimp, and toss until cooked through and pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook or it will turn tough. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve with steamed rice, or French bread to sop up the sauce. Close your eyes and pretend you’re in Hawaii.

Garlic Ravioli

1 pound pkg. cheese ravioli

3/4 cup prepared garlic butter sauce

Cracked pepper and paprika

Fresh basil for garnish

Saute garlic in salted olive oil and butter as above. Prepare ravioli as package directs, but slightly undercook, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the ravioli right into the fry pan and continue cooking until al dente, add in a little of the cooking water to thicken it, and stir to coat the ravioli. Serve with a sprinkling of pepper and paprika and finely shredded basil. Close your eyes and pretend you’re in Italy.

Also growing wild in our garden is some of the heirloom salsify, or oyster plant, a root vegetable which looks like a parsnip and is said to taste like an oyster — but that’s a whole ’nuther story…

We’re in the Culinary Corner every second, fourth and any fifth Thursday. Please send your ordinary or extraordinary recipes to Consuelo at The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or email to Cambrian@thetribunenews.com.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. Send your unique recipes to her to the address listed above.

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