Archive for May, 2011
Though my blog is primarily focused on DIY, I think every once in a while some general information is appropriate because it is central to why even bothering with learning or doing anything…at all.. let alone doing it yourself. While these aren’t the answers to the big questions of where we are from, or what’s it all for, the two links below can instill amazement and appreciation of this universe we are citizens of for a short time.
Nothing new here. We’ve been taught size and scale throughout our lives. Then, when quantities are sufficiently small or large, our perception loses a handle on something to keep it in relative perspective. You take photo of a statue with someone next to it and say “wow, that’s a big statue”. What is 1 x 10^100 vs 10 x 6.022 x 20^23? They are just big numbers. We can talk about them, but lose sight of how big they are. Well, take some time to watch the two following links in succession. Study them and really try to keep their relative sizes in the working store of your mind. Compared to the carbon atom, how big are we humans? Compared to Betelgeuse, what is the amount of atoms we contain?
I showed these two links to my department at work to open a meeting. Some commented on feeling insignificant afterwards, others amazed that they could look up that night and see many of the stars called out (Betelgeuse, Pollux, Aldebaran, Sirius). They all seemed to again reflect on where we fit in the scheme of things.
The universe is a big place. There is a lot out there to try to understand. Why not start here?
Let’s Start Small
As a kid growing up in Western Pennsylvania, we always seemed to have shoots of a particular weed growing up ahead of the grass in the spring. Obviously being an inquisitive (and foolish?) kid, I would pick it up, and immediately noticed a strong garlic or onion aroma. Not long after, I would nibble on the shoot, and it tasted like chives. Every once in a while as I was idling through the woods, I would pick up a shoot of this wild garlic and nibble on it.
I have since moved to Virginia, and my new lawn has more than its fair share of wild garlic (and acorns). Rather than fight it, I figured I would embrace it and use it for a nice garlic soup!
WARNING: Always positively ID a plant before consumption. There are two varieties of wild plant that look like Wild Garlic or Wild Onion, and are dangerous (Star of Bethlehem, and Death Camas). I did not know this until I did some net research.
I went to my front yard where the garlic was growing in early spring. It grows in little clusters shooting up through the grass.
Now that I had a full bag picked in very short order, I selected out the largest of the bulbs (probably not required) for preparation. This consisted of teasing out the grass that had been dug out along with wilted or dried debris. Then the bulbs were washed free of dirt and I cut the stringy beard of the garlic off and removed the outer layer of the bulb. Once the knife hit the garlic, the aromatic part of preparation was in full swing. It was not nearly as strong in scent or eye-watering as cutting through a pile of red onion making salsa, but has a subtle onion odor.
Making the Soup
Now.. I am not a great cook. I am not even a good cook! I have my 3-4 go-to dishes that I am sure my friends and wife are sick of, but that is all I am really comfortable with. I do love soups in the winter, and would like to get better about making it and reheating it for a warm bowl of deliciousness when I want it. I scanned the web for a recipe making vegetable broth. I did not want to use beef or chicken stock because I figured this would overpower the star of the show, our Garlic. I selected some “neutral” ingredients that I thought would work well together.
- Wild Garlic (shocker, I know)
- Bay Leaves
I diced the carrots and cut the potatoes into nice chunks. I brought the water, garlic bulbs, salt, pepper, carrots, and bay leaves to a boil and let them simmer for about 25 minutes. After that, I added the potatoes, mushrooms for another 30 or so minutes. At the end, I threw in a handful of the chopped up garlic shoots for more flavor and texture so as to not soften them too much in a long simmer. Pull out the bay leaves, and we are done!
And with that, a little bay leaf for presentation, and we are ready to enjoy. I think it turned out nicely. I perhaps over-peppered and salted and perhaps not long enough simmering the broth, but there was not a lot of other flavors to compete with the garlic. They were very mild in the soup, and I would have to say it was good enough to have another bowl of, and another a couple days later. The garlic is versatile and people comment on throwing it in salads, on top of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, or other foods. It’s not good enough to crack into the standard 4 meals I prepare, but it’s good to get outside of the comfort zone, and like the acorn flour, enjoy something from the grocery store feet from my house.