Last fall, on the shortest day of the year, Jennifer filled a corner of the garden with garlic cloves that she slipped out of the kitchen while cook wasn't looking. Cook did not take the missing garlic well. He declared the leek soup ruined. I have to admit I was on his side at that point given the quality of Cook's croutons. Jennifer tried to cover her tracks by casually suggesting that Cook use the powdered garlic hiding in the back of the pantry. Cook exploded at this blasphemy. Cursing in Italian and French, he menaced Jennifer with an 8 ounce ladle. Jennifer fended him off with a cutting board until she escaped the kitchen.
The next day, Jennifer found her breakfast died red with beet juice. She countered by sneaking a dose of salt into Cook's coffee mug. These were the first shots fired in a war that lasted half a year. The dishwasher, "Just broke," Jennifer's Facebook password appeared on Reddit, key pages in Cook's secret recipe collection went missing, the potpourri in Jennifer's sachet was replaced with moldy cheese, and so on...
By the spring the war was calming down out of sheer exhaustion when the onion-like stalks of cook's missing garlic poked up in Jennifer's garden. Cook spotted the tasty shoots and grabbed a bunch to roast on the grill. Tears dripped down her face when she realized that the aromatic garnish on the dinner plates represented good plants that died too young. Cook is a sucker for sad stories and took pity on her. They went out to the garden where he showed her that most of the plants were in place and healthy. They agreed to call a truce before there were any more casualties.
Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest day of the year. In most places the garlic harvest is part of welcoming summer, but in western Washington, summer does not start an instant before mid-July. So it was raining hard when we all headed into the mud to bring in the garlic. The wet soil was messy, but it made it easier to pull the fat, fragrant heads from the ground. The trick is to get a firm grip at the base of the plant and pull just hard enough to bring up the bulbs. Pull too hard and you snap off the top and have to go digging in the mud for the rest.
No wonder Cook was pissed, I thought as I worked hundreds of heads from the mud. She must have cleaned out a month's supply to plant this much garlic. But Cook wasn't pissed anymore. As his basket filled his eyes rolled back in his head and his lips whispered ideas for ways to turn the plants into tasty treats.
He washed a tray full, cut the tops off, sprinkled them all with salt, pepper and canna-oil and popped them in the oven to roast. In minutes the kitchen and then the rest of the house filled with the most delicious smell ever to come from the Stoned Soup kitchen. I offered to cut slices of bread for the roasted garlic, but Cook sneered at my lack of imagination and took the bread knife away from me.
After an hour in the 320 degree oven, the garlic was lightly brown with bits of caramelized cloves oozing from the top. I still thought my bread idea was a winner, and after some begging, Cook tossed me one of the heads. Here's a tip - never try to catch something right out of the oven. Cook's hands, after years of abuse, are impervious to heat. Mine, after years of nothing harder than working a keyboard, were instantly scalded. I managed to survive (and keep my garlic prize) by juggling the clove while blowing on my scorched fingers.
While I retreated to the corner with my treat, Cook squeezed several heads of garlic into a pan that sizzled with olive oil. He mashed the cloves with the back of a fork while he worked in a few tablespoons of flour. He flicked in a bit of salt and stirred the mixture until the flour turned the same shade of brown as his wooden spoon.
I was feeling the effects of the canna-oil in my garlic bread when cook poured a large jar of chicken stock into the pan, filling the air with a cloud of fragrant steam. He stirred vigorously to make sure that all the flour and garlic was evenly mixed and then tossed in a bundle of thyme tied with string. I've seen him do that with herbs before. The idea is to let the flavor of the herbs get into the liquid, but be able to pull them out when they were spent.
Cook adjusted the heat to get a low simmer and stepped into the pantry. I wanted to get a spoonful of soup, but cook was back before I could maneuver to the stove. He had a handful of dried pasta that he broke into tiny bits and dropped into the pan. Time slowed while the soup simmered and Cook chopped green onions into pretty little threads. It was a long wait, but worth it when Cook ladled out bowls of soup, garnished it with the onions and called everyone down to eat.
The soup was just the thing for a rainy afternoon. It was thick and creamy with a strong garlic flavor. The thing about roasting the garlic is that you get all that good flavor without the bite of raw garlic. For a while, the only sound was of spoons clinking on the bowls.