Friday, April 24, 2015

Is Sprouted Garlic Safe to Eat?

Sprouted garlic ~ cut in half with sprout removed
Garlic is one of the world's most popular ingredients. It consists of several small cloves gathered around a stem, surrounded by a papery skin and in a bulb form. Garlic stores best in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. It is best in a breathable container rather than airtight plastic. If garlic is refrigerated, it will deteriorate quickly and attempt to sprout when you bring it back to room temperature. 
Cooks appreciate its long term storage however, the cloves are how the garlic reproduces, so it will sprout in the spring. Those bright green shoots emerging from a head of garlic don't mean it has gone 'bad' and eating it won't make you sick... it is perfectly safe. The only time I would throw garlic out is if the cloves are yellow, mushy and smell bad or are totally dried out.  

Here are a few ways to use sprouted garlic;
1) Use it as normal ~if the sprout is small and the clove is still firm, chop the sprout with the clove and use as usual. Some people say these small shoots can be bitter and will impart their off flavor into whatever you are cooking, though I have never found this to be so.

2) Remove the sprout ~ if you do not want the sprout and the rest of the bulb is firm and smells like good, fresh garlic; peel the cloves as you normally would, and slice each one lengthwise down the middle. The green shoot will be visible and is simple to remove; grasp it by the top and pull it out. Use the remaining clove as you normally would. If you have a large amount of last year's garlic in storage that are starting to sprout; peel the cloves, remove the sprout and discard. Freeze the remaining cloves in a zip-type baggie. Remove cloves from the freezer and prepare as needed for use in recipes.

Growing Fresh Garlic Sprouts ~ Day 4
3) Grow fresh garlic sprouts in your kitchen window  ~use a clear bowl or small cup so you can watch the roots grow and see when the water needs to be changed. Place sprouted cloves (or whole bulb) in the cup and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the cup and just touch the bottom of the cloves. DO NOT submerge the cloves or the water will become cloudy and smelly and the cloves will start to rot... not good. After a few days the garlic will quickly produce roots. It is a good idea to change the water when it looks cloudy or every few days, no soil is needed. When the shoots are about 3 inches tall you can begin harvesting garlic sprouts. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of the growing blades. If left alone, they will grow about 10 inches in height. Two inches of a sprouts blades will give about a tablespoon of chopped fresh sprouts. Cutting the the main sprout back down to the clove will not produce more shoots. Eat fresh chopped garlic sprouts on top of baked potatoes, green salads, pasta salads, in dips or as a garnish for hummus or guacamole.   

4) Plant it! ~take them outside and place the bulb sprout side up in the dirt and push them down until the bulb is covered all the way. Put them in flower boxes or pots, among flowers and vegetables. They grow easily and fast. Leave them in place long enough and a new head will form.

Till next week... Bon Appetit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spring Seedlings

Seedlings that are grown on windowsills, under lights or in greenhouses have soft stems and tender leaves. They have to be 'hardened off' before they are planted outside. This means to gradually get the delicate plants used to outdoor conditions; direct sun, wind and cool nights.
Transplanted seedlings in the sun room
Last week my first seedlings were transplanted from flats into 4" pots ...tomatoes, herbs and broccoli. I have staked each tomato plant with a skewer and twist tie to support them in any wind. The newly transplanted seedlings were kept in a cool, shady place for a few days to recover from transplant shock, then moved to a brighter location. I will start hardening them off soon. The process is simple; the first day place the plants outside in the sun for an hour or a bit longer if it is cloudy, then move them back inside for the rest of the day. Over a span of 7-10 days, expose them to direct sunlight for longer periods until they are outside all day. Hardening off tender crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash etc. mainly means getting them used to direct sunlight. These tender crops can be seriously set back or even die from sunburn if they are abruptly moved from indoors into full sun for a whole day. A cold frame is ideal for hardening off plants but be sure to open the cover for ventilation. Each day open it a little more so by the time the plants are ready to be set out, they are used to the sun and outdoor conditions. 
With our fluctuating spring temperatures, if it is not warm enough to plant seedlings outside, be prepared to move them to larger pots if they become root bound. To tell if a plant is root bound; look for excessive roots coming out of the drainage holes or if you cannot get the root ball to easily slide out of the container.
Once the garden soil warms, the ideal weather for transplanting your hardened off plants is a cloudy day. A hot, dry day will increase the shock of transplanting. Also, if you have left the seedlings in flats, they will take longer to recover than those grown in individual pots because their roots will suffer more damage during transplanting. When transplanting tomatoes, plant up to the first leaves because every hair on the stem will become a root. Once planted outside, protect the plants from the sun and wind for 3-4 days to give them time to recuperate. I use an assortment of materials; cloches covered with remay cloth (floating row cover), plastic mesh trays propped up with a stick and tomato cages draped with burlap. The object is to shade plants from the midday sun until their roots recover. If a cool spell threatens, try covering plants with cloches, plant pots turned upside down or floating row cover to keep them warmer. 
Till next week, Happy Gardening and Bon Appetit!

Photo by Sally Rae 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

For the Halibut

In season, fresh halibut to my ears. One of my favorite meals with fresh halibut is Fish n' Chips. The deep fryer is not brought out often, but this is a special treat for us. The second best part of this plan, is that the leftover fried fish is transformed into delicious Fish Tacos the next day
My choice of oil for deep frying is Rice Bran Oil, even though sometimes expensive and not easy to find in local stores. Rice Bran Oil is oil extracted from the hard, outer brown layer of rice after the chaff (rice husk). It is noted for it's high smoke point (450 F) and mild flavor. These qualities make it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods such as deep frying and stir frying. It is a popular cooking oil in several Asian countries including Japan, India and China.
And what is fried fish without fresh cut fries to accompany? My potato of choice is the Yukon Gold; skin on, and cut thicker than a shoestring but not quite as thick as my index finger. You can cut them any size you like, but be sure the thickness is consistent so all fries cook in the same timing. Also note the timing to blanch and cook will vary depending on their thickness. Fresh fries are oh, so cool served in newspaper cones! For instructions of 'How to Make a Paper Cone' out of newspaper to serve the fries, see page 26 of my cookbook, 'For the Love of Food'.
When I go to the effort of a Fish and Chip meal, I like to use up all the batter, so have ready; fresh onion rings - slice peeled onions into half-inch thick rounds and carefully separate into rings. Another fun extra for the menu are zucchini sticks.

Till next week, Bon Appetit!  
FISH AND CHIPS (Gluten Free Batter) ~ Yield: 4 servings
This recipe is adapted from The Food Network's Tyler Florence and has become my favorite batter for fish, onion rings and fried vegetables like zucchini sticks. It is gluten free, easy and very crispy. 

Battered Halibut, onion rings, zucchini sticks and fresh fries
Vegetable or Rice Bran Oil, for deep frying
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cups white rice flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 (12-oz.) can soda water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 lb. fresh halibut
1/2 cup white rice flour, for dredging
*Onion Rings or Zucchini sticks, optional
Malt vinegar and tartar sauce for serving

Heat 3 inches of the oil in a deep fryer to 320 degrees F. Alternatively, use a deep heavy skillet with a deep fry/candy thermometer for accuracy.
Scrub the potatoes, skin on and cut them into chips (that is, fries). Put the potatoes in a fryer basket and lower into the oil. Blanch the chips for 3 to 6 minutes; they should not be crisp or fully cooked at this point. Remove the chips to a paper towel-lined platter to cool and 'sweat' for up to 30 minutes.

Crank the oil temperature up to 375 degrees F. Cut the halibut into pieces, wash thoroughly in cold water and gently pat dry. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Combine soda water and egg and pour into the flour mixture. Whisk to a smooth batter. Spread the 1/2 cup rice flour on a plate. Dredge the fish pieces in the rice flour and then dip them into the batter, letting the excess drip off. Carefully lower the battered fish into the bubbling oil, don't overload the fryer, and fry for 4 to 5 minutes until crispy and brown on all sides. Remove from the basket and drain on paper towels, season lightly with salt. If necessary, wait for the temperature to reach 375 F and continue to dredge, batter and fry until all the fish is cooked.

While the fish is still warm, put the blanched, cooled chips in the bottom of the fryer basket and carefully submerge in the hot oil, fry for 2 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove the basket, shake then drain on paper towels; season lightly with salt. Serve chips wrapped in a newspaper cone with malt vinegar and fried halibut with tartar sauce.

*Optional: to use up the left over batter; dredge fresh cut onion rings and/or zucchini sticks in rice four and then dip them into the batter letting the excess drip off. Fry at 375 degrees F turning once, until golden brown.

Recipe Adapted by Sally Rae
Photo by Sally Rae

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Preventing Pantry Pests

Most of us at one point or another, will unknowingly bring pantry pests into the home. The term 'stored food pests' is used for a wide variety of insects including weevils, beetles and moths. These unwelcome guests can even be found in a home that is spotless.

The first indication of infestation is often the presence of small brown beetles, moths or worms in cupboards or on counter tops. Upon closer inspection, insects may also be found in opened packages or containers of food and in the cracks and crevices of cupboards. Initially, infestations are easy to overlook because the insects are quite small especially in the egg and larval stage. Infestations can start with just a few insects but a population can quickly surge if given the proper food source and a place to reproduce. Commonly infested foods include; flour, cereal, pasta, rice, baking mixes, whole or cracked grains, dried fruit, nuts, candy, crackers, popcorn, spices and sometimes beans and chocolate. Other items around the home that may become infested are; pet food, birdseed and dried flowers. Pantry pests can thrive in unopened boxes or pouches and a sealed box is no guarantee of confinement because the insects can chew through paper, cardboard, plastic and foil. These pests can remain active all year because our homes are heated through the winter months.

By the time insects are noticed they have most likely spread to other food packages. Other than the insects themselves, other telltale signs include webbing in tight places of a package or tiny holes in the container.  
One of my kitchen pantry drawers
In general, sanitation will eliminate pests and prevent further infestations. Most situations are controlled by isolating and removing all infested food from your home and regularly vacuuming food storage areas. Washing infested areas with detergent or bleach will only create a food paste in shelving cracks that is favorable to insects. Chemical control is rarely justified since sanitation will provide sufficient control. Never apply insecticides in a manner that allows direct contact with food, food preparation surfaces or utensils. Freezing food for 3-4 days can kill many bugs. As a general practice, storing infrequently used food items in the freezer prevents infestations from developing. Another preventative practice is to place any of the products listed above in the freezer for 4 days as soon as you bring it home, then store in airtight glass, metal or heavy plastic containers.

Prevention and Sanitation ~Following a few general guidelines when storing food products will help you avoid any potential problems;
  -inspect grain-based food immediately after purchase and periodically for insects
  -only buy what food you can use within 2 months
  -store food in insect-proof, airtight glass, plastic or metal containers, this will prevent entry or escape of insects... plastic bags are not adequate
  -don't mix old and new lots of food, if pests are present they will quickly invade the new
  -clean containers before filling with fresh food
  -remember FIFO (first in, first  out) when stocking your pantry
  -clean up any spills in cabinets right away
  -don't purchase broken or damaged packages of food
  -regularly vacuum pantry shelves and areas where food is stored, empty the vacuum to prevent re-infestations
  -clean food storage areas well at least once a year
  -use caulking to seal cupboard or pantry shelving cracks to reduce food particles

Ironically, I was tossing around topics for this week and a few days ago opened the container of short grain brown rice. Now this was purchased about 3 months ago and stored in a heavy plastic, Tupperware container. It was full of rice weevils! At first I was a bit horrified, I have never seen rice weevils 'in person'! It took me a minute to realize there was no way they had gotten into the container, they couldn't get out! Guess I will get back into the habit of freezing all grain products before storing.

Getting rid of pests is not hard, but it does take time if you have not stored your foods properly. You must also take care to not bring new pests into your home. Also, to answer a very common question... it won't hurt you or make anyone sick if you happen to eat some... just added protein!!

For more information and insect identification photos, go to;

Till next week... Bon Appetit!

Photo by Sally Rae