Stinking Garlic -- It Can Be Made Mild Through Roasting, But It Can't Be Gentrified Or Made Polite
IN THE VAST AND curious bibliography of cookbooks, there are a few that can be considered great. Many that can be judged good. More that are mediocre. And a few that are downright bad. But rarely, if ever, has one been called stinking. Especially by its own author. The Stinking Cookbook, by Jerry Dal Bozzo (Celestial Arts; $9.95) is subtitled: From the Stinking Rose, A Garlic Restaurant. It is aptly named. Based on recipes presumably snatched from the North Beach kitchen of San Franciscos Stinking Rose, owner Dal Bozzos book lives up to his restaurants motto: We season our garlic with food. He wrote further, We finally decided to get it down on paper. We accomplished what we set out to do, and the results truly stink! After a careful (if astonished) reading, I was forced to conclude that Dal Bozzos self-estimation was essentially correct. The Stinking Cookbook not only stinks, it is bad. Thats all right. Lots of recipes are bad. I recall a conversation several years ago with a Northwest food writer (not at this newspaper) who strongly urged me never to attempt one of his printed recipes. Those things are for publication, he said. For Petes sake dont try to EAT any of the stuff. The Stinking Cookbook might, for the sake of the national digestion, have included such a disclaimer. For example, Dal Bozzos recipe for polenta lists under ingredients: 3 quarts of water, one quart of cornmeal, cheese, etc. Then directs the unwitting fool who might follow his instructions: 1. In a 3-quart saucepan bring the water to a boil. 2. Slowly stir in the cornmeal and lower heat to a simmer. Instruction No. 3 should say: Spend the next two hours cleaning up your ruined stove (since 3 quarts of water and 1 quart of expanding cornmeal cannot fit into a 3-quart sauce pan), but instead it merely states to continue stirring. And shoveling. The Stinking Roses recipe for pizza dough (yeast, a half cup of olive oil, one cup of flour, one and a quarter cups of water) will barely make an oily pancake batter, let alone a pizza crust. No matter. Dal Bozzos heart is in the right place. Garlic has become increasingly popular in American cooking, especially among health food practitioners. Even indifferent cookbooks can lead to a few happy results. Dal Bozzos recipe for artichoke soup (reprinted below), with some minor alterations, is simple, rich, impressive and wonderful. Garlic is one of the oldest of human foods. The first written reference to it (in Sanskrit) appeared 5,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians valued it; 15 pounds of it were worth a healthy male slave. The Chinese used it 3,000 years before Christ. More than just a food, it has been linked to mythic and curative powers, from boosting courage to easing arthritis, from lowering blood pressure to soothing asthma, from enhancing potency to naming cities. Really. Chicago is named after garlic. Native Americans living on the western shore of Lake Michigan called the place chicagao-ua after the wild garlic that grew there. A couple of Seattle restaurants have built their reputations on their use (or overuse) of garlic. Lombardis, 2200 N.W. Market St., in Ballard and Karams Lebanese Cuisine, 340 15th Ave. E., on Capitol Hill, both specialize in heavy
sometimes daunting applications of garlic. At Lombardis they have a motto posted in the entry: Eat Garlic. Breath Tall. At Karams, the servers wear T-shirts emblazoned: There is no such thing as too much sex or too much garlic! Anis Karam, a very scholarly man, is quite serious about the generous use of garlic. When I first came to Seattle, he recalled, my wife and I looked for restaurants that used a lot of garlic and we didnt find too many. Mostly we went to Italian restaurants. But they cook their garlic and we dont. Karam explained that he came to the belief that raw garlic was good for the body (all parts of the body) through study and from venerable food writings. We dont cook the garlic. Its better for you. We cook the food first and we add the garlic raw. We found that if we balance garlic with fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper, it is not offensive. His grilled garlic chicken and the creamy white garlic dressings that are drizzled over them are indeed compelling. You know you have taken on a potent load of allium, the amino acid that gives garlic its aromatic character. It breaks down into diallyl disulfite (which lingers on the breath) and diallyl thiosulfonate, believed to have antibiotic effects. Powdered garlic is not a fair replacement, although I occasionally use Lawrys, which has a not unpleasant flavor. I have yet to find a prepared garlic (i.e., minced in a jar) that was not offensive, if not outright repugnant. If you cook with garlic, do so carefully. Never burn it or even let it brown. It turns seriously bitter. If used in conjunction with onions (as many recipes dictate), cook the onions first and then add the garlic briefly before adding the remaining saucing ingredients. Garlic is, somehow through the ages, a happy bulb. A kind of ribald humor has always been attached to it like jokes of potency and prowess. It is not in any way delicate. It can be made mild, through roasting, for example. But it cannot be made gentrified or polite. Poet and playwright Thomas Nashe, Shakespeares contemporary, was probably right when he wrote: Garlick maketh a man wynke, drynke and stynke. And wryte stynking cookbooks.
-------------------------------- THE STINKING ROSE ARTICHOKE SOUP -------------------------------- 6 servings
3 (14-ounce) cans water-packed artichoke hearts, drained. 2 medium onions, chopped. 3 sprigs fresh thyme. 2 whole bay leaves. 4 cups chicken stock. Salt to taste #. 1/2 cup roasted garlic ##. 1 cup whipping cream. 4 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese.
1. Cut artichoke hearts in half, place in pot with onions, thyme, bay leaves and chicken stock. Add salt and bring to boil. Cook until artichokes are very soft. 2. Puree the soup, using either a hand-held blender or a food processor. 3. Strain or pass through a food mill. 4. Return soup to pot, bring to simmer, then add the roasted garlic, cream and the cheese. Whip until smooth and cheese is incorporated.
# Drain the canned artichokes well, or rinse and drain. They can be very salty. Be judicious in adding any additional salt.
# # Garlic is easily roasted. Slice the top quarter-inch off the top of the heads, exposing the bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and place in an ovenproof casserole sealed with foil. Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes until soft and spreadable. The recipe can also be made with garlic lightly pan-sauteed in olive oil.
(Copyright 1995, John Hinterberger. All rights reserved.) John Hinterbergers weekly restaurant reviews will appear a day earlier when Tempo, The Timess entertainment guide, begins publishing on Thursday this week. Read his food columns Sundays in Pacific and now Thursdays in Tempo. Barry Wong is a Times photographer.
Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.