Recently, garlic killed my cold. Seriously. When you get that itchy, tickly feeling in the back of your throat, what do you reach for? I've tried Zicam and other stuff... or just ignoring it and then suffering for a few days... but I recently read that raw garlic stimulates an immune system response which turns the jets on the cold bugs. And this "medicine" is probably sitting on your kitchen counter. Sounds pretty good, eh?
People I tell you: raw garlic WORKS. I've tried it a couple of times, first on mild cases and more recently on a stronger bug caught from Jacky. Knocked it right out by the next morning, no TheraFlu required (though I love that stuff). Which was great, considering my to-do list at work was horrifying.
So, how to take it? Well, you have to mince the garlic, and just about one small clove will do. One time, I ate it straight, all at once, and nearly puked (and I really, REALLY like garlic). I've had more success putting it on a cracker, sometimes even topped with soft cheese. Last time, having no soft cheese on hand, I plopped on some Greek yogurt. Worked great.
Next time you feel "the tickle", try garlic! Or maybe you already do this? I'd be curious to know how it works for others.
This past weekend was a bit of a girls-only weekend. Toby went up to Tahoe for a ritualized type of weekend wherein men gather to celebrate the impending nuptials of another man. Yeah, you know what I mean. (They seem to have mostly behaved.) And yeah, Jacky is a boy and was indeed home with me, but I declared it a Girl Weekend. Whee!
What does that entail, when you're 36 years old and have a toddler who keeps to an early bedtime? Nothing too crazy, more like catching up on some of my favorite things: cooking and chatting with a great girlfriend, drinking interesting wine (sparkling red), watching (and reciting, and giggling at) Pride and Prejudice (BBC version, not recent movie), sipping milky tea, lots of reading, a trip to the very busy Saturday Farmers Market (Toby hates crowds), and foggy walks in the canyon... also, some serious cleaning (random).
And cooking a special lunch.
When I learned Toby would be leaving town for the weekend, one of the first things I whispered to myself was, "RISOTTO." It's not that he doesn't like it. I'm not sure what could possess him, but he claims to be a little "meh" about this lovely dish. Yeah, it might be totally 90s, but... Gah, I LOVE risotto. The prepping, the stirring, the unctuous yumminess of it. The fact that you can throw just about anything in it... after all, it takes quite a lot to mess up vegetables, rice, cheese and butter.
This time it was a foggy summer garden risotto: baby summer squash, leeks, tiny tomatoes and herbs. I've made a lot of risottos, and I can honestly say this was the absolute best one I've ever made, and not just because I pulled up and washed soil off all the produce. Risotto demands that you pay attention: yes, stirring but also observing the texture, plus a bit of tasting. Things just clicked this weekend.
Foggy Summer Garden Risotto
makes 2-4 portions, depending on your appetite*
4 - 4.5 c. good chicken stock
3 T. olive oil, divided
4-6 baby sunburst summer squash, cubed
2 small leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced, with white and light green parts separated from dark green
1 c. arborio rice
1 glug of dry vermouth
small handful of cherry/pear tomatoes, diced
2 T. unsalted butter
sea salt and black pepper
2 T. chopped chives
1 T. picked thyme leaves
big handful of grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
:: Heat chicken stock to a bare simmer in a medium pot to the rear of the stove. Have a ladle ready. Be content to spend some quality time with your stove (this is a good thing!).
:: In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add squash and a pinch sea salt and pepper. Sautée until slightly softened. Add white and light green leek slices and sautée further until mixture is softened but not browned. Reserve to a bowl.
:: Wipe any squash or leek bits from pot. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add rice and stir constantly until slightly translucent and grains make a sound like glass beads in the pot. Add a good glug of vermouth and stir until evaporated.
:: Using ladle, tip in a 1/2 c or so of the hot stock and stir constantly until almost absorbed. Continue doing so until 2 or 3 ladles of stock remain to be added. At this point, add the squash/leek mixture back to the risotto, as well as half of the tomatoes and 1/3 of the dark green leek slices. Continue adding remaining stock.
:: When final ladle of stock is almost absorbed (check rice along the way for al dente doneness--if it's not perfect, keep adding more hot stock), stir in half of the remaining dark green leek slices, plus the butter and most of the herbs (reserve some for garnish). Stir in most of the parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
:: Check the texture: it should be oozy, wanting to lazily spread on a plate with each grain suspended in a buffer of liquid, without being either soupy or sticky. Add tiny bits of stock or butter as needed to thin, or keep cooking to thicken.
:: Spoon onto warm plates. Garnish with remaining tomatoes, leek slices, herbs, more cheese and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil and more salt and pepper. Serve immediately -- risotto is best right away!
* The quantity can easily be doubled per this ratio: 2 c. rice + 7-8 c. stock. Adjust quantity of produce and seasonings accordingly.
Can I rant for a sec? I have to say... man, the weather really blows this summer. Wait, what summer.
Right, west coast peeps? Even southern California has been cool-ish (though I would take their "cool" over ours.) And, it's driving me nuts reading my East Coast friends write about their terrible, evil heat wave. Ugh, please send me some of that right now. And some of the margaritas and lemonade you've been drinking while wearing sandals and strappy dresses :) I'm ready to chuck my wool jacket and scarf into the Bay.
And, the garden has been suffering, too... in the tomato department at least. Sad, soggy and stunted. (I would have to pick a La Niña summer to get all crazy ambitious in the tomato dept...) So, today I took matters into my own gloved hands and harvested a whole bunch of green cherry and pear tomatoes which have been stalled in neutral for a few weeks now. Early on in the season, the weather was great, so a bunch of fruit was set. But, now they're just tapping their fingers... waiting for some sun. Meeeee tooooo.
So, I decided to harvest a bunch of greenies to make something out of them. Maybe it'll give some of the remainders a chance to grow up. I'm thinking of making a tiny batch of Gayla's delicious-looking green tomato chutney. I'll let you know.
But, they are pretty no?
And, as you can see the summer squash plants have been producing steadily, if slowly. Jacky and I have been eating them sauteed in butter with herbs, mere moments after harvest. Yum.
And, the blackberries! Complain as I do about this exceptionally cool summer... the blackberry monster out back couldn't give a lick. It's pumping out berries like mad. The harvest is a little late this year, and it's just getting started -- and already it's overwhelming. I've been casually harvesting pints at a time. Like, I go out to pick some thyme and come back with a bowl full of finger-stainers. And this is like 1% of what's out there. Yeah, loving the blackberries right now. Especially since all the other months of the year I'm at war with it, hacking it back and digging up any upstarts.
Does a number of the hands, though. (Worth it.)
And, the little pickling cucumbers are starting to pop up. They, too, don't seem to care too much about the weather. Who knew?
A few years ago, I lamented that I didn't have any hobbies. I worked. Now, with a new home and nascent garden, cooking exploits, adorable kiddo and husband to keep me, well, busy... I can't imagine such a condition. I still work some, but my free-time 'want to-do' list is long and that makes me happy. I'm a chronicler by nature, and this blog is my space for sharing thoughts, tastes and ideas. Let me know what you think!