Celebrate garlic the best way possible - eat it

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I was surprised to learn that there is a National Garlic Day and that it falls on April 19 every year. But why in April?

Garlic is harvested in the summer and planted in October at least here in the Northeastern part of the country. The Southern Vermont Garlic Festival is in September and even the famous Gilroy Garlic Festival in California is held at the end of July. So why not designate the day be held in the summer or fall?

National Garlic Day is not about the culinary use of garlic. It was established in order to bring public awareness to the benefits of garlic for medicinal uses. Considered "nature's wonder drug," human's have been using garlic for healing and good health for thousand's of years and now, apparently, modern scientific research does substantiate that there may be benefits to using garlic for medicinal purposes.

There's an old Welsh saying "Eat leek in March and garlic in May, then the rest of the year, your doctor can play." That sounds like a case for observing the day in April!

Well, based on that knowledge, all the more reason to eat more garlic and I'm all for that. With that in mind, here are two recipes to help boost your consumption of garlic.

It doesn't get any better than this ...

Classic Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Garlic!

Ingredients:

1 pound spaghetti

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced

Zest of 1 lemon, optional

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add spaghetti and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain well.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to lightly brown, approximately 5 minutes. It is important to not let the garlic brown too much as it will become bitter. Gentle cooking to a pale golden color creates a sweeter garlic. Stir in red chile flakes.

Add cooked pasta to the oil along with the reserved 1/3 cup pasta water. Add parsley, a handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest and toss well. Serve immediately with extra cheese on the side.

Roasted Garlic and Chipotle Soup

Perfect for a fall day ...

Ingredients:

4 whole large heads of garlic

olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Juice of 1/2 lime

salt & pepper to taste

Garnishes:

diced avocado

diced tomatoes

thin sliced scallions

baked tortilla strips (recipe to follow)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Start by separating the garlic cloves and placing them in a baking dish just large enough to hold the garlic cloves in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Cover dish with foil and bake until garlic is just lightly golden brown about 45 minutes but start checking at around 30 minutes. Do not allow to become too brown or the garlic will become bitter. Cool and then squeeze the cloves to release the garlic. Discard the peels and set garlic aside.

In a saucepan, saute onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until they begin to brown. Off the heat, add roasted garlic, stock, chipotle chile and cumin to the pot and puree soup with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Return to medium high heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with tortilla strips, avocado, tomatoes and scallions. Serve hot.

To make the tortilla strips: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush both sides of 4, 6" corn tortillas with olive oil. Stack tortillas and cut into 1/4" to 1/2" strips. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until lightly toasted and crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt while hot.

The Southern Vermont Garlic Festival is guaranteed fun, so go! Be sure to bring home lots of garlic and enjoy good health and good eating!

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