Auntie’s Garlic Festival Favorite

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - July 21, 2005
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Renny Kamark loves garlic, which explains why one of the first special events at Auntie Pasto’s since he was recently named chef and kitchen manager is to inaugurate a garlic festival.

Chef Renny is a graduate of Farrington High School who literally worked his way up in the restaurant industry and really “found himself” at Ed Wary’s family Italian location, Auntie Pasto’s. He joined the company 15 years ago.

This exciting garlic event, featuring a myriad of creative dishes, takes place July 15-31 at the popular South Beretania Street restaurant, with great dishes available for lunch and dinner.

It’s here that Renny is offering a menu of great antipasti such as fried mozzarella with anchovies, capers and garlic sauce, and Spedini, pork tenderloin scallopini with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese rolled together, grilled and tossed in plenty of garlic and olive oil. He’s making an array of house specialties, wonderful daily specials, and even roasted garlic ice cream for dessert.

When asked for his own favorite, and a recipe to share, Chef Renny produced one for Roasted Garlic Soup with goat cheese croutons. It sounds delicious, so make plans to try it at Auntie Pasto’s during the Garlic Festival!

Over the ages, garlic has been recognized as having many therapeutic properties.

Garlic is rich in selenium, a mineral that is touted for fighting off infections and protecting cells from damage. Many of the sulfur compounds that are formed from garlic are known to improve the immune system. Garlic has been credited with improving cholesterol levels, gout and circulation; lowering blood sugar levels, helping digestive troubles, and overall improvement of the immune system. In World War I, it was widely used as an antibiotic.

There are more than 30 types of garlic, the most popular being white, pink and purple colored varieties. Elephant or giant garlic has a milder flavor. Garlic can be eaten as a vegetable, but is most commonly eaten as a condiment and is used to flavor soups, vegetables, meats, stews and marinades, to name a few.

When purchasing, choose firm heads that are plump and free of sprouts or spots. Garlic may also be purchased dried as powder or flakes, or in jars as a paste, minced or chopped. For maximum flavor, fresh garlic is best.

Garlic will keep for several months in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. Garlic can also be frozen for about two months; just remove the outer skin and place in freezer bags.

Diana’s Garlic Tips:

• For easy peeling: Place cloves between two pieces of wax paper, crush lightly with a knife, and the peel should slide off easily.
• For mild garlic flavor, rub the inside of salad bowls with the peel of a raw garlic clove.
• Macerate cloves of garlic in olive oil to impart extra flavor to the oil.

The longer the cloves are left in the oil, the stronger the flavor.
• Most importantly: To freshen breath after garlic consumption, chew on a few fresh mint or parsley sprigs — and you thought parsley was just a garnish for the plate!

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (to lower fat and cholesterol, use cooking spray)
• 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
• 2 medium leeks, well-rinsed in several changes of water, whites only, finely chopped
• 1 cup chopped yellow onions
• 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
• 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
• 1⁄2 cup roasted garlic
• 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
• 3 1⁄2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
• 1⁄2 cup heavy cream (to lower fat, use half and half or lowfat milk)
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1⁄2 loaf rustic Italian bread, cut into cubes
• 8 thinly sliced rounds French bread
• 1 clove garlic, halved
• 1⁄2 cup crumbled goat cheese
• 1 1⁄2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• chopped chives, garnish

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered, about 4 minutes. Add the leeks, onions, salt, pepper and thyme and cook 5 to 6 minutes. Add the roasted garlic and stir well to incorporate. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the wine is nearly all evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft and the soup is slightly thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Add cubes of bread to thicken, if desired, and then blend with an immersion blender. Add the cream, parsley and lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the sliced bread on a baking sheet and bake on both sides until just crisp and light golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the oven. Rub one side of each with the cut garlic clove. In a small bowl, mash the cheese with the oil and spread 1 tablespoon of the mixture on top of each crouton. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with two cheese croutons. Garnish with chopped chives and serve hot.

Makes four servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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