Oven-Roasting Garlic is so Easy!

There’s something about garlic. There’s something about roasting. Put those two together and you’ve got the greatest little culinary buddy you could ever hope for. Roasted garlic jazzes up sauces, spreads, dips, potatoes, cupcakes (OK, maybe not cupcakes), and just about anything else you try it on. And the thing is, IT’S SO EASY TO MAKE! I don’t often use snouty capitals, but I’m serious.

You can make a lot or a little depending on what you want it for. I needed two heads for hummus, so that’s all I made. Take two fresh heads of garlic, and cutdown just far enough to expose the cloves. Don’t cut from the end that holds it all together; cut the end that you’d break it apart from.

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Get out an oven-safe vessel, line it with foil, and pop the heads of garlic inside.

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Drizzle each head with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Then sprinkle with sea salt. I think fine-grain salt works best for this. Just avoid rock salts as they’re too chunky and may not break down all the way.

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Make a happy little package out of your foil and pop in a 375 degree oven. I used my toaster oven for this. I let the garlic roast for nearly and hour. I removed it just as my house was smelling too tasty for me to handle. Look how pretty it is!

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Organic Heirloom Thai Pink Egg Tomatoes

Twenty lousy tomatoes. I raised nearly 100 heirloom tomato seedlings from seed, trench planted them, watched them grow like crazy, and then…days and days and days of all rain and no sunshine bore a fungus I just couldn’t battle organically. I tried and tried to overcome the beast, but, alas, my babies succumbed to the elements. They just couldn’t recover. Out of the 30-something seedlings of 22 varietals I kept and planted, I have four left. So I’ve decided to start all over. Enjoy the one photo I took of my lovely Thai Pink Egg tomatoes.

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I should also mention that I did get some Yellow Currant, Hawaiian Currant, Healani, and Very Cherry heirlooms as well. Of all the heirlooms, they did the best in my coastal Florida climate. I will say, though, that there’s nothing as chipper and optimistic as a gardener who’s just planted. I’m looking forward to the half-full cup again.

Garlic and Oregano Focaccia Bread…from Scratch!

Today I got a hankering for some focaccia bread. Have I made it before? Nope. Am I willing to try anything at least once? Yep! So here goes…

Make sure to put the ingredients according to the bread machine’s manufacturer instructions:

1 1/8 cups of water
3 1/4 cups of bread flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons of rapid rise (bread machine) yeast

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Mix in bread maker on dough setting.

Meanwhile, mince 6 cloves of garlic and then soak them in olive oil. I put my garlic and olive oil mixture in a small dish and microwaved it for 30 seconds. Voila! Garlic infused olive oil. Using your microwave makes quick work of what you’d otherwise have to do on the stove top in a skillet.

Once the the dough is done, portion it into two equal-ish blobs and then palm press those into whatever amoeba shape you find most appealing. Then coat them, generously, with olive oil. Place these onto baking sheets that have an olive oil and cornmeal coating.

Let rise for 25 minutes.

While rising, preheat your oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees on the bottom rack of the oven.

Then add all of the garlic-infused olive oil and all the glorious nuggets of garlic love that made that olive oil what it is. Spread it evenly over the risen dough.

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Now set the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove your smoldering hot pizza stone from the oven, put some cornmeal on the surface, and put one of your garlicky, doughy amoebas on it. You’ll hear it instantly sizzle. Pop it back on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Wait until it’s lightly browned on the surface. DON’T BURN THE GARLIC!

Repeat the preheating and baking process for the second piece.

Finally, wait until your focaccia is just cool enough not to blister your tongue, rip a hunk off, and chow down. It’s magical…so very magical. Focaccia experience #1: great success.

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Organic Bell and Cubanelle Volunteer Peppers

Volunteer plants are Mother Nature’s way of thanking eco-conscious gardeners for composting. And she thanked us big time this year. We had twenty-two volunteer pepper plants spring up in a tiny bed on the side of our house…in a bed that we were preparing for Zinnias! Some plants are bell peppers, some are Cubanelle peppers, and some look like a bizarre hybrid.

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Regardless, we’re getting free veggies! We also had two volunteer cucumber plants that produced a ton, but now they’re done for.

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The peppers, however, are in full swing. What’s interesting is that this raised bed is only 8″ deep and gets five hours of morning sun per day. No matter who I talk to or what I read, this shouldn’t really happen. But it doesn’t look like these pepper plants are complaining.

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The Best Chicken Sandwich EVER…on Basil Balsamic Bread

Today’s glorious sandwich is garlic and herb chicken on basil balsamic bread…

Oh, the sandwich. Sandwiches are perhaps the most versatile way to eat amazing combinations of food while using up tasty leftovers. I love them. I eat them all the time. I’m not tired of them at all…especially when I enjoy the filling on artisan bread with garden-fresh veggies and mayo!.

The bread is a balsamic and basil bread that’s got the texture of a fluffy sponge. It’s amazing. We love our Zojirushi bread maker!

The veggies include heirloom lettuce varieties (Southern Exposure Seeds…I posted about the lettuce mix a couple of weeks ago), tomato from the garden, Vidalia onion, and pickled jalapeño.

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For the chicken:

We eat a ton of chicken. It’s as versatile as the sandwich. Chicken + sandwich = convenient no-brainier. This sammy features chicken breast that has a garlic herb seasoning on it. It’s been seared in a skillet with a bit of organic salted butter and sliced thin.

Sandwich time:

To make the sandwich, grill the bread with butter in a skillet. Do this before you assemble it. You don’t want hot, wilted, veggies! Only grill one side of the bread; leave the soft side for the middle. Let the bread cool for a minute and spread both ungrilled sides with mayonnaise. I recommend Duke’s or Hellman’s. Pile up some cooled, sliced chicken, add your veggies, some cheese (we used Dubliner Irish cheddar), leftover bacon if you’ve got it, and seal the deal with the top piece of grilled bread.

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And, if you really want to get crazy, you can serve the sammy with our amazingly tasty roasted red potatoes. These are appallingly simple to make.

For the potatoes:

Take as many red creamer potatoes as you’d like and cut them into quarters. Toss them with olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Toss them in a baking pan or on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove them and make sure they’re softening and browning. Then, and this is the big secret, toss them with a small bit of your favorite Italian dressing (store bought is fine) and put them back in the oven. Roast at 400 for another 20 minutes or until they’re browned to your liking. There! That’s it.

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