Food

Celebrate Garlic with Gusto

Canadian Living
Food

Celebrate Garlic with Gusto

dsc03546 . It was one of those dreamed about early fall  mornings when Rose Murray and I pulled into the Old Fairgrounds in Stratford ,Ontario. Impressive white presentation tents bookended two long rows of smaller  tents. These 50 some tents, festooned with banners and flags, were stocked with garlic . In bags, bunches and braids, for cooking and planting, whole, pickled, chopped, in fudge, jellies and relishes.  Plus ceramic garlic roasters, presses and keepers. For the generalist, there were just picked eggplant, peppers, golden honey, country pies and coffee. These lines of tents were open for shoppers to browse, and also to form a wide walkway for garlic lovers to stroll or sit, savouring the day.  And with the sun shining brightly, it was as if we had arrived at a colourful medieval fair where all the jousting was edible.  It was the Stratford Garlic Festival, the third annual, created by the Stratford Kiwanis Club as a fundraiser for its community programs. I had been asked to do a cooking demonstration, and with Rose, both of us former high school teachers, having a crowd soaking up our every word of cooking wisdom is irresistible. Besides, we're garlic enthusiasts, and as I'm from Stratford, the Garlic Festival was a way to support the community and to meet family and old friends.  The garlic was indeed impressive. During a walk-around before our demonstration, both Rose and I became the proud owners of garlic braids - so beautiful it's a shame to break them apart, but we will. A wonderfully stinky time in the kitchen is ahead of us both.  The Garlic Festival wasn't just about buying garlic, it was very focused on learning more about all aspects of garlic, its health benefits, its place in literature, notably in Shakespeare, and naturally, how to cook with the stinking rose. A good number of attendees had come for garlic growing advice, for example from Warren Ham who was himself inspired to grow garlic 19 years ago by an article by the dean of garlic growing, Ted Maczka, the Fish Lake Garlic Man. Among the crops that the Ham family grows on August's Harvest, their 50-acre farm north of Stratford, is garlic seed to supply individual growers, farmers and seed houses. And once the garlic has grown and been harvested, so the thinking goes, it's a shame to simply give away the crop a few heads at a time or to sell it all trimmed and pristine. How much more impressive the garlic will be if it's braided. dsc03550 So thought the Kiwanis Club organizers who asked garlic farmer Bryan Mailey to show a crowd of over 300 delighted attendees just how you have to place the bulbs and their stalks and twist to get an attractive braid. dsc03549 One of his own braids - with 9 or more bulbs is Mailey's gift of choice - and who wouldn't want to receive a braid featuring firm fat heads of garlic  to hang in the kitchen as decoration and inspiration for cooking. Say for a lovely appetizer featuring goats cheese and roasted garlic. Roasted Garlic Strudel Roasting garlic sweetens and tames its intensity. Here roasted garlic and fresh herbs play off creamy goats cheese. Slice and serve on small plates as a pass-around appetizer, or cut the slices thicker and serve on dressed salad greens for a sit-down starter. The strudel is best when freshly baked and just cooled to room temperature. dsc035531 1 head garlic 1 tsp (5 mL) extra virgin olive oil 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) soft goat cheese  2 tbsp (30 mL) minced fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley 2 tbsp (30 mL) thinly snipped fresh chives or green onion tops 1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh rosemary or thyme 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper 4 sheets phyllo pastry 1/4 cup (50 mL) butter, melted . Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased; set aside. . Trim the tips off the the garlic buds. Place garlic, cut side up, on square of foil. Drizzle with oil. Wrap loosely and roast in 375°F (190°C) toaster oven or oven until golden and tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool. (Make-ahead: Wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.) . Squeeze roasted garlic into a medium bowl. Add goats cheese and mash until combined. Stir in the basil, chives, rosemary and pepper; set aside. . Place 1 sheet of phyllo pastry on work surface, keeping remainder covered with a damp towel to prevent the sheets from drying out. Brush the sheet with butter. Top with a second sheet of phyllo; brush with butter. Repeat with the remaining phyllo, and almost all of the butter. . Spoon the goat cheese mixture along 1 long side, leaving 1-1/2 inch (375 cm) border on each side; fold these sides over.  Roll up firmly but with a little slack. . Place seam down on the prepared pan. Brush all over with remaining butter. With a serrated knie, score top diagonally though phyllo into 8 to 12 portions. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.) . Bake in centre of 375°F (180°) until golden and filling has started to  push up through the score marks. Let cool on pan on rack for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours before slicing along score marks.  . Makes 8 to 12 servings.  Tip: To make the top surface of the strudel more attractive, you can sprinkle it with a little sea salt. Maldon is a good choice. Or, over the surface of the first buttered phyllo sheet, sprinkle finely chopped basil or parsley. Layer the remaining sheets of phyllo and filling according to the recipe. When you roll up the phyllo, the outside will have an attractive pattern. Stratford Garlic Festival 2010: For more information about the 2009 Festival, check out www.stratfordgarlicfestival.com, and when available, next year's Garlic Festival slated for Saturday September 18, 2010.   Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival, September 26 and 27, 2009. So, you missed the Garlic Festival. You still have a chance to taste what this city located in a one of Ontario's finest agricultural areas has to offer. Lots! Bring your appetite and enthusiasm. Both will be matched by what the Festival has on the menu - and on tap. There will be a Farmers' and Artisans' Market, a traditional pork roast, free outdoor concerts in the park along the Avon River, craft beer, Ontario wine, and demonstrations with tastings in the Stratford Chefs School's Learning Centre. On Sunday,  Savour Stratford Tasting features local and celebrity chefs such as Jonathan Gushue (Langdon Hall),  Jamie Kennedy of JK Kitchen and Jeff Cump, a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School. Cump has been getting loads of press recently, not only because of his commitment  and leadership in Slow Food and raves for  his food at the Ancaster Inn where he is the executive chef, but as the co-author of  Earth to Table - a magnificent cookbook published by Random House. For full details about Savour Stratford, including a calendar of events, musical entertainment, location and tickets, visit www.savourstratford.com
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Celebrate Garlic with Gusto

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