Christopher Ranch

  (Gilroy, California)
Gilroy's finest. Family owned since 1956
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Gilroy's Glorious Garlic Festival is Here!

The 32nd Gilroy Garlic Festival is upon us and Christopher Ranch, like most of Gilroy, is scrambling to get ready for a great gastronomic garlic gala. Our garlic harvest is in full swing with loads of white bulbs coming in fresh from the field, our packing sheds are packing and our braiders are braiding so we’ll have plenty of ajo for all the garlic lovers descending upon Gilroy. The co-founders of the Festival – Don Christopher is one of them – knew that July’s garlic harvest was the perfect time to celebrate Gilroy’s claim to fame!

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is the largest food fair of its kind in the world, and it serves up the best garlic dishes found anywhere: garlic scampi (my favorite), pepper steak sandwiches, Festival calamari in red sauce (my other favorite), garlic stuffed mushrooms, pasta con pesto (who am I kidding, they’re all my favorites!), even ‘gator gets the garlic treatment and for dessert… garlic ice cream. You have to try it at least once just to say you did. I love watching kids eating it for the first time – their initial unmitigated joy at the first lick of vanilla ice cream and then their utter surprise, or should I say shock, when the garlic aftertaste hits! The look is photo contest worthy.

Every year the festival feeds and entertains over 100,000 guests during the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July. Gourmet Alley serves up 10 tons of beef, 4 tons of pasta, 4 tons of calamari, 2 tons of scampi using 2 TONS of Christopher Ranch California garlic, and 4,000 volunteers happily donate their “hourly wages” to 150 non-profit charities. The festival is also going green this year using compostable utensils and cups and locally sourced food and products. 100 artisans sell everything from pottery to paintings, and over 50 food booths have something garlicious and/or refreshing for every taste. You’ll find fresh bulbs, bags, braids and jarred garlic products in CR’s booth – and ALL of our garlic and garlic products are California grown, California made and California fresh.

Chef Fabio Viviani (right) with 2009 Chef Showdown winner, Ryan Scott

Four stages present entertainment (even yours truly will be performing with The Corvairs) and premier cooking events including The Great Garlic Cook-off where 8 amateur chefs from across the nation compete for cash prizes and a crown of garlic bulbs, and the Garlic Showdown which pits four prominent Bay Area cooking professionals in an Iron Chef type competition. The contestants are given a “secret ingredient” and will have two hours to prepare, plate and serve their creations to a select panel of judges including our own Bill Christopher! Chef Fabio Viviani, from Bravo Network’s “Top Chef” show is hosting again this year. He’s a crowd favorite with a personality as spirited as the food being prepared. The Great Garlic Cook-Off Finals willbe streamed LIVE on the internet?at www.gilroygarlicfestival.com on July 24, 2010, at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Catch it if you can!

Come Friday, you can find me at the Scampi booth. I’ll be the one licking garlic butter off my chin and laughing out loud. Jeeps, I love this time of year…

 
 

The Garlic Bulb Balloon Guy

Talent comes in many forms and if you’ve ever seen “America’s Got Talent” you know what I’m talking about. On a recent trip to Chevy’s for fajitas and a watermelon margarita (delish if you haven’t tried) my co-worker, Roggie, and I ran into one such talented person – Ben, the balloon guy. Gilroy’s Chevy’s has had a balloon person, on and off, for many years creating animals, hats – you name it – for squealing numbers of kids, but this night I wanted the balloon guy to make something for me.

Being an equal opportunity balloonista, meaning there was no age limit on his making anyone look juvenile, Ben was ready to grant my wish. “What would you like me to make?” he asked. My immediate answer: “a garlic bulb!” Even with a margarita in my hand, garlic as usual, was on my mind. Ben’s reaction to this request surprised me: “I’ve been working here for 7 years and no one has ever asked me to make a garlic bulb!” Really? I thought it would’ve been number one on the Garlic Capital’s top ten balloon list – or at least a close second to the little doggie with the puffy legs.

Well, it was Ben’s time to shine and, with a big smile, he sprang into action, stretching white balloons, blowing them up, tying them off, even biting off pieces of balloon to make small sections (these were to be the roots of the bulb*) in a virtuoso performance. Rog and I were amazed and delighted when, in a matter of minutes, he whipped out an adorable, chubby Christopher Ranch (of course)) garlic bulb, complete with a little green stem on top. A one-of-a-kind! I happily tipped Ben, finished my marg, and out the door we went with Little Ben; the name just seemed appropriate.

LB sat in a place of honor on my desk for a week or so until, sadly, it started to deflate, becoming a mere shadow of its former glory. Only the good die young, I guess, but I’ll always have my memories… I think it’s time for an encore performance by the balloon guy – and another margarita for me! Thanks to Ben at Chevy’s in Gilroy for making us smile!

*Always look for some roots when buying garlic! Garlic from China has the roots completely shaved off.

 
 

Put Fireworks in Your Food: Add Garlic-a-Lotta


July 4th is Sunday, and the little kid inside of me is really looking forward to the fireworks. Most of my neighbors must feel the same way because, every year, they shoot a sizable wad of currency into the night sky. My family will be lighting up our annual $39.95 cache at appointed intervals but, mostly, we’ll be in our lawn chairs ooohing and aaahing and sipping wine. Not a bad way to spend an evening…

If you’re anything like us, however, it’s the flavor explosion earlier in the day that causes the most excitement – the barbecue. Whether you’re grilling tri-tip, ribs, chicken or fish, you can add a few fireworks to your favorite fare with Christopher Ranch’s fresh California garlic – it’s born in the USA – and what could be better on this all-American holiday!

For maximum bang in your BBQ, this recipe using Christopher Ranch fresh chopped garlic and green garlic will complement anything from steak to salmon. Gremolata (pronounced Garlic-a-lotta, yes!) is a traditional Italian blend made with simple ingredients. It’s used as a garnish, condiment or “salsa”, and is a great topper for a wide variety of dishes.

GREMOLATA

AKA GARLICIA’S GARLIC-A-LOTTA

1             lemon – peel finely grated to equal at least 1 tsp. of zest

¼          cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

3            garlic cloves – finely chopped

3            shoots green garlic – finely chopped

Drop or two of extra virgin olive oil if desired

Dash of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

The beauty of this blend is its flexibility – a few tweaks can turn it from Italian to Greek to Chinese or whatever persuasion lights up your tastebuds. If you’re going Latin: substitute cilantro for parsley and add finely chopped jalapeño to taste; Greek: substitute finely chopped mint for parsley and add a pinch of sugar for a great lamb topper; Chinese: add a touch of chile paste, soy and rice wine vinegar. The possibilities are endless, just let your heritage and plenty of USA garlic be your guide!

Have a Happy, Safe and Sane 4th of July!

 
 

Responsibility and the Dream

Most of us wake up these days hoping to hear some good news about the Gulf oil spill, but after 2 months and counting, it’s not forthcoming. The President is talking about a plan and BP has offered apologies but the worst environmental disaster in America’s history will not be cleaned up for decades upon decades no matter how much money and rhetoric are thrown at it. What a tragedy…

About a month before the oil spill, Christopher Ranch drew up a Social Responsibility Statement outlining our mission to “conduct our business in an ethical, socially responsible, environmentally sustainable manner while working to nurture our relationship with our customers, employees, our community and the environment.” In light of the Gulf disaster, we are reminded daily of just how vital it is to focus on our responsibilities. Christopher Ranch isn’t perfect, no company is, but we remain vigilant in working to provide a safe place to work, products our customers can trust and a sustainability program that will take us through another 50 years of farming.

Our hearts go out to ALL affected in the Gulf, and we hope that a solution will be found and implemented as soon as humanly possible. I go to sleep each night wishing that the brilliant minds on our planet would come together to end this catastrophe. So far, it’s only a dream…

 
 

Dad, the Wheelbarrow Grill, and Clams on the Half Shell

 

I’ve said in a previous blog that moms and food go together, but it’s also true of dads. Most times we picture them at the grill handling a heap of steak, brauts and beer, almost like the captain of a ship, in total control of rare, medium and well done. My dad was no different, although his method of barbecuing was like nobody else. His grill was a masterpiece of invention on a shoestring. Picture if you will (I often do), a beat-up old, metal wheelbarrow with the front grill of an antiquated truck laid across the top of it. It was classic dad ingenuity and when he wheeled it into the patio, all we saw was  “yum, barbecue!” and didn’t care what it looked like. 

His do-it-yourself ways belied an expert griller, especially when it came to chicken, which he basted at steady intervals with a blend he put together in a large Mason jar. He filled the jar with olive oil, added a cube of butter, a splash of sauterne (probably his secret ingredient), and many garlic cloves. The key to this recipe, however, was the basting “brush” he made with a bunch of fresh rosemary sprigs, another money saver because rosemary grew like a weed in our yard, but it added the perfect touch of flavor.

Dad also appreciated nature’s bounty and often went hunting and fishing. He loved to go “clamming” and had a secret spot off the coast highway near Pismo, California, where the clams were almost as large as my hand. He would bring home a gunny sack of “treasure” and prepare the Clams on the Half Shell. His recipe was basic: blend clam juice, fresh chopped garlic and parsley, white wine, a little lemon, salt and pepper and pour over the halves before baking. I can still see my dad pulling them out of the oven while our family waited with forks at the ready. We ate like kings for the price of a fishing license….  

 I haven’t seen clams that large for many years, but Dad’s recipe will work for any seafood – calamari, scallops – and don’t forget to top them all with lots of chopped green garlic. Dad would have done it in a heartbeat!

 
 

This green garlic recipe tops them all!

The sun has finally seen fit to shine on this burg (sadly, a little too late for our cherry crop) but with 90 degree weather expected this weekend, dining light is on tap for me and mine. And what’s better than a big, beautiful green salad on a hot day?  Well, a lot of things (a walk in the redwoods, a winning lotto ticket, okay, I’ll stop…), but when I’m craving greens, I’ll go to great lengths to build a masterpiece piled high with freshness, flavor and even a little love.

If you’re like me and throw your heart and soul (and the kitchen sink) into a salad, you don’t want to ruin it with a mediocre and/or bottled dressing lacking any real personality. Which brings me to the point of this blog: our very own Justin (salesperson slash chef) has created what I so eloquently described as “awesome” when it first hit my taste receptors, Green Garlic Vinaigrette. Before you tell yourself, cripes, it’s another green garlic recipe, do not NOT try this recipe. Besides being fresh, zesty and just plain delicious, this dressing is a refreshing pick-me-up for an energy draining dog day. Try it on salads, meat, fish, chicken, burgers – and in or on any food you can think of.  Last night, I grilled some venison sausages, sliced them up and used Justin’s GGV as a dipping sauce instead of mustard. It was, and I contentedly repeat myself, awesome!

JUSTIN’S GREEN GARLIC VINAIGRETTE 

3        oz. Christopher Ranch Green Garlic, trimmed and coarsely chopped

3        tbls. chopped cilantro

3        tbls. white wine vinegar

2        tbls. water

½       cup canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend green garlic and cilantro first, then add vinegar, water and blend. With blender still running, add oil very slowly until well blended

 
 

Oh Shoots, It’s the Garlic Family BBQ

 

It’s May – it’s Memorial Day – it’s barbecue, baby! No matter what the weather’s doing (Gilroy is unseasonably cool and dewy right now) the grill and my taste buds are ready to spring into action. Grilling is my favorite way of cooking and I refuse to listen to those who say charred is not a food group. Vegetables, especially, taste amazing on the barbie and CR Green Garlic is a primo candidate for grilling.

GRILLED GREEN GARLIC is quick and tasty – the perfect appetizer or side dish for an outdoor bash. Trim, wash and pat dry at least 4 Christopher Ranch Green Garlic shoots per person. Coat shoots with extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper if desired and place on the grill. Turn every minute or so until lightly browned to a nutty sweetness. All that’s left to do is pour the wine, serve the shoots and leave the chips and dip in the dust. This is barbecue with character – fresh, delicious and healthy! 

Now that we’ve kicked off our garlic party, let’s get to the beef. My once-upon-a-time mom-in-law, the late, great Josephine, created a killer marinade for top sirloin steaks. It’s loaded with enough fresh lemon juice to make you “gleek”, but the lemon also seems to have a tenderizing effect on the meat. I have a wonderful, heirloom Meyer lemon tree in my yard so I recommend using Meyers, but any type of lemon will do as long as it’s fresh. Josephine had no recipe measurements because she did everything on the fly, but I’ll give you my best guesstimate on her ingredients. Feel free to adjust if you must. 

JOSIE’S BBQ SAUCE: Squeeze 6 or more fresh lemons into a bowl, pits, pulp and all. Add 1/4 cup catsup, 1/3 cup Worcestershire and ½ cup A-1 sauce. Add 3 to 4 cloves of fresh crushed garlic, a generous pinch of Italian seasoning, and if you have any raw CR Green Garlic left, chop and add. Blend and set aside about half a cup of sauce to use while grilling. Marinate a couple of your favorite steaks at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in the refrigerator. Grill to desired doneness while basting at intervals with the reserved sauce. Serve hot and zesty!

 

You’re on your own with the side dishes, but I suggest potato salad and old-fashioned garlic bread, both spiked with chopped CR Green Garlic. You just can’t have too much of a good thing!

 
 

Salt vs. Garlic – and the Winner Is…

If you’ve ever downed gallons of water to quench a never-ending thirst, gazed at your puffy calves and ankles turning into kankles, or wondered why your favorite ring is now choking the life out of your finger, you know what salt can do to you. These are a few of the noticeable consequences of consuming too much salt, but what’s more frightening are the effects you can’t see.

Your body needs some salt to help maintain the right balance of body fluids, transmit nerve impulses, and help your muscles contract and relax, but too much salt makes your heart work harder to move blood through your blood vessels, thereby increasing the pressure in your arteries. This barrage can lead to the development of high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Twenty five percent of American adults have high blood pressure but many don’t know it because this “Silent Killer” can be symptom free.

 The recommended daily allowance for sodium is about 2400 mg but the average American consumes about twice that amount! Sodium occurs naturally in many foods but most sodium intake comes from packaged or processed foods and chemical additives like sodium chloride – table salt. 

 What’s a body to do? Eat fresh, unprocessed food and cut back on the salt – way back. I can hear you saying “food just doesn’t taste as good without salt” (I’ve said it myself), but Christopher Ranch has a bold solution:  ADD FRESH GARLIC INSTEAD OF SALT. Using one teaspoon of fresh garlic in place of one teaspoon of salt can eliminate 580 mg of sodium – and increase the flavor of your food! 

 Hmmm, less salt, more flavor… sounds like a win-win situation to me – for you, your heart and your health. All it takes is a little diligence and lots of garlic, most preferably Christopher Ranch California Heirloom Garlic.

 
 

The Ties That Nourish

M is for the millions of words already written about moms, O is for the outrageous stories you probably have about yours (I have a few!), and lastly, M is for my mom whom I miss very much for so many reasons. Since this is, for the most part, a food blog, I will concentrate on one of the things my mom did best, cooking.

She was, simply, a great cook and I say simply because she came from a large family of meager means, and the food she learned to cook was modest, down to earth, almost humble… and very good. So good – and I sometimes feel guilty about this – that even on Mother’s Day we (my bro and I) wanted her to cook. After we moved to our own homes, we still gathered at Mom’s because, let’s face it, she spoiled us. One year, I finally learned to make one of her favorites, Sopas (pronounced soopash), a traditional Portuguese dish served during Festas (festivals) and it became our customary Mother’s Day meal. This made her very happy and gave her a proper Mom’s Day, no cooking, no cleaning, just eating and enjoying herself.

These thoughts make me aware of just how much moms and food are tied together. You may have your own memories, but mine involve Mom bringing me chicken soup when I was sick in bed, all of the family laughing around the table after devouring her scrumptious and distinctive holiday dinners (we made a table game out of counting the sizable number of garlic cloves she inserted in a pot roast), her coaxing me to try “just one bite” when she made a new dish (I’m not afraid to try anything because of this), singing happy birthday around a four layer, rainbow colored birthday cake (one of her specialties) and her staple, a simmering pot of hearty Portuguese beans which warmed up the kitchen, and us, on many winter days. I wish I could share that recipe here, but in my naive inaction, I thought that delicious pot of beans – and my mom – would always be around.

 In many ways, she is still with me, in the memories, the heritage, the little eccentricities I inherited from her (I’ll never tell), and in her recipes that season my life. If you have a favorite Mom recipe, write it down now, don’t let it slip away. And if you’d like to share it with me, please send it along, especially if it’s for Portuguese beans. I’d be forever grateful.

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GREEN MINDS RUN IN THE SAME CHANNEL

Just received some great feedback from Jennifer Armentrout, Senior Food Editor of FineCooking.com about our new Green Garlic. She also happened to mention in her latest blog that the appearance of green garlic reminded her of raw leeks -exactly what popped into my head last night when dreaming up new recipes instead of counting sheep.  

Thanks for jump-starting my memory, Jennifer, because I wanted to give our garlic lovers some food for thought: CR Green Garlic can be used instead of leeks – or onions, cilantro, chives, scallions, shallots, elephant garlic, parsley, basil – in any recipe. It’s a fresh, fresh, fresh alternative (or addition) to the tried and true… the ordinary. On a practical note: CR Green Garlic is easier to prep than leeks! Just trim roots, rinse in cold water, pat dry and try your own version of Jennifer’s aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil.) To give you a jump-start, here’s a vintage recipe from the Christopher Ranch vault updated with a generous infusion of Green Garlic. Buono mangiare! 

SPAGHETTI AGLIO VERDE

2/3       cup extra virgin olive oil (or half oil and half butter)
8         shoots (3 oz. bag) Christopher Ranch Green Garlic -trimmed and chopped into
½”        pieces (or julienned as Jennifer did)
1         clove fresh garlic - finely chopped
1         tsp. fresh basil - finely chopped
2         pinches or more red pepper flakes
1         lb. thin spaghetti or vermicelli -cooked al dente and drained
          Salt and pepper to taste
½         cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

 Heat oil in large skillet over low heat and lightly sauté Green Garlic with the regular garlic until limp. Do not brown. Add basil and pepper flakes, blend well and lightly heat through. If skillet is large enough, add pasta to oil mixture, salt and pepper to taste and toss until well blended. Or place pasta in large serving bowl, add oil mixture, salt and pepper and toss until well blended. Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

 
 

A SLICE OF BIRTHDAY GARLIC, IF YOU PLEASE

 When Mr. Obama asked about her youthful longevity, Frances revealed that her secret was eating a spoonful of garlic every night! That bit of information from the Today show made me shriek (that’s what comes out at 7 a.m.) with delight as I pictured the throngs of people taking that info and running with it – right to the supermarket to buy garlic. I wish Frances had said California garlic, but you can’t have everything.

The Prez even said he was willing to try her garlic secret but added that Michelle probably wouldn’t kiss him if he did. Sounds like a cop out, maybe, because that situation is an easy fix – just step up to the plate, Lady Uno, and share a clove or ten with your man. As one of our staff is fond of saying, “ if everyone eats garlic, it smells good on you!

Unlike George Bush Senior’s broccoli bashing, at least President O put a favorable spin on our beloved herb/vegetable. If garlic fever spreads from Pennsylvania Avenue to the House and Senate, could we then call it the Garlic Capitol (that’s the building, don’t ya know, not the Capital as in Gilroy Garlic)? Besides, garlic has a way of calming the heart and clearing the mind – could be the perfect panacea for our governing body. I’m picturing the dome of the Capitol building in the shape of a giant garlic bulb. What a delicious notion…

Jerry’s Restaurant should also follow Ms. Asher’s lead and make fresh, chopped garlic a constant condiment so patrons can have a spoonful with every meal (it’d probably double business.) A lovely photo of her holding a garlic bulb could grace the entry and greet customers with the maxim: “a spoonful a day, keeps eternity at bay”. This Garlic Grande Dame is an inspiration and should be acknowledged. Here’s to you, Frances, and another 107. It could happen – never, ever underestimate the power of garlic.

 
 

Earth Day, Every Day

 

The Earth Day celebrations are over, Oprah’s on to another topic and disparate headlines crowd the internet and prime time news, but as I see it, it’s the days after that count. The sun may have set on Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, but now is the perfect time to rise up to the challenge of making the earth a priority – every day.

It’s easy to think about going green, especially at this time of year when the Ranch is enveloped by that most perfect of colors. The cherry trees have dropped their riot of white blossoms in favor of verdant leaves, the forerunners of late May’s luscious bounty. Sixty acres of Bings, et al, stand against a velvet backdrop of emerald hills to the west. Broccoli has been harvested, and another wave of new green garlic is awaiting harvest at just the right moment. But apart from what’s visible to the eye, Christopher Ranch’s roots also run green and deep.

 The Christopher family has been farming in California’s Santa Clara Valley since the 1880’s, and has always held the Earth in high esteem. How else could they continue to work with her and reap her benefits year after year, nurturing crops and sustaining jobs to keep the garlic growing, flowing and perfuming the air.

 But more work is always needed and Christopher Ranch does its utmost to be green in all aspects of its operations – from the ground up with stringent field rotation programs, drip irrigation, pesticide residue free garlic, increased organic production, to the packing facilities with reduced energy use, eco-friendly packaging and preventative maintenance, to transportation with more economical fuels and shipping procedures. Every one of the staff are encouraged to practice the other 3 R’s (bear with me, I have to repeat it… reduce, reuse and recycle) and the recycling bins are full on Friday afternoon – a positive sign that we’ve gotten with the program.

 The Ranch is ever implementing, updating, installing and even experimenting in a concerted effort to produce the best garlic in the world in the most earth-friendly way possible. We’re in it for the long haul, at least another 50 years, and we’re putting our resources toward a happy, healthy Earth day, after day, after day, ad infinitum.

GARLICIA’S TIDBITS – VIVA LA DIVA!

 

Christopher Ranch is excited about the debut of its new diva - Green Garlic. Our first few plantings have been harvested, packed, and shipped– so get ready to roll out the green carpet! This tender beauty will make your favorite foods sing.  

There are only a couple months left until the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It’s the diva of all food fests, the largest and most spectacular of its kind in the world. Set the date, July 23-25, for three days of fun, cook-offs, music, friendly people, and the number one reason 100,000 garlic lovers show up every year – delectable, garlicious, food, food, food. Christopher Ranch is the Official Garlic of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, natch! 

If you’re ready to wash down these tidbits, and celebrate your inner diva or divo (you know who you are…), try this tasty little beverage. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present:

THE DIVA COCKTAIL – GARLICIA STYLE

 

 

 

 

1½     oz. vodka

½        oz. fresh lime juice

1          tbls. cherry juice

½       oz. passion fruit juice

Club soda or 7-UP

Christopher Ranch Pickled Garlic Cloves

Fill a tall glass or Collins glass with ice and add the first 4 ingredients. Top off with club soda or 7-up. Garnish with a cherry, lime wedge, and at least 2 Christopher Ranch Pickled Garlic Cloves. Oooh, I can taste it… diva-licious. 

 
 

Garlic Goes To the Movies

 
I love movies almost as much as I love garlic. Funny movies, crime dramas, foreign flicks, movies that make you think and dream, but mostly I love old movies. Black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s and, with some partiality, those A-bomb cursing, sci-fi ones made in the 1950’s, where Harryhausen’s gargantuan monsters in stop-motion (the precursor to Avatar’s motion-capture) rip up a perfectly peaceful beach and send teenagers running in holy terror.

Along with those monsters, everything was bigger in the 50’s: big cars (nothing badder than a sleek and sexy 57 Caddie), big hair (why is the word bouffant not in my dictionary?!), and big food like mac ‘n cheese and hot roast beef sandwiches dripping with gravy. But, was that big food dripping with garlic? No, not likely. Who cooked with garlic in the 50’s?? My gramma did thanks to her Tuscan roots, but your basic menu at the diner downtown probably didn’t feature garlic-laden goodies. 

Which brings me to one surprising moment on a recent rainy Saturday. While watching the 1955 classic, “It Came From Beneath The Sea”, I was startled to hear the word GARLIC! No, it didn’t come out of the mouth of the giant octopus that was soon to be manhandling and handling and handling, etc. (each arm got in a whack) the Golden Gate Bridge. It was uttered by the leading man in the quiet scene just before all hell broke loose. He was insolently trying to order dinner for the scientist heroine and sweetly whispered in her ear “how about a lobster smothered in garlic butter”. As her eyes lit up, mine did, too, as I realized that garlic was coveted even in the 50’s, and as the end neared and our heroes brought down that giant octopus, I couldn’t help but think that it was the garlic that gave them the strength to do it.

P. S. I’d also like to think the leading man ordered “octopus smothered in garlic butter” as the movie credits rolled by. I’d hate to see that big fish go to waste…

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Into the Strata-Sphere or How Not to be an Easter Basket Case

If you’re ready for the basket, as my mother used to say, here’s how to stifle the urge to throw those nicely colored Easter eggs at passing cars or tear the ears off the inordinate amount of chocolate bunnies you’re planning to devour. Simmer down, have a mimosa and go hoppin’ down the garlic trail with a brunch that will please everybody. (Let those that aren’t pleased feast on the leftover bunny bodies – yes, the chocolate ones – you stashed in the pantry.)

Breathe in, breathe out and go buffet. Spread out your brightest tablecloth, fill a vase with fresh cut flowers and whip up Strata Garliata, a delectable concoction that I also like to call “Please Let There Be Leftovers.” It can be served hot or cold, so it’s perfect for an all day affair. Round out the menu with generous platters of fresh pineapple, strawberries, melon, your favorite muffins or breads, and beverages of your choice (another mimosa, please!) Bake a few garlic bulbs at the same time as the strata – imagine the aroma – and encourage your guests to spread the warm, squishy garlic on pineapple slices (don’t scoff, this combo is on pizza…) or try it Garlicia style: warm Christopher Ranch Roasted Garlic Cloves in the microwave for a few seconds and skewer alternately with pineapple chunks on fancy toothpicks.

Almost the entire brunch can be done ahead of time. Assemble the strata, refrigerate it overnight and bake the next day. Set the table, prep and bake (or buy) the rest of the items the day before to make it a fairly no-pressure, no headache Easter. Of course, nothing is perfect but you just might be able to relax, enjoy yourself and show everyone what a good egg you really are!

STRATA GARLIATA

14 slices sourdough or day old bread – remove crusts
2 cubes butter – melted
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese (1¼ lbs.)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 cups cubed cooked ham or cooked shrimp (about 1 lb.)
3 cloves Christopher Ranch California Garlic – minced
2 bunches Christopher Ranch California Green Garlic – chopped (save about half to
sprinkle on casserole after cooking)
1 bunch green onions – chopped
12 large eggs – beaten
1 tsp salt
½ tsp. pepper
5 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 tbls. sweet mustard
3 cups milk
1 pint sour cream

Brush the bread slices with butter and cut in half. Arrange 1/3 of the slices in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread 1/3 of the cheese, parsley, ham or shrimp over the bread slices and repeat to form three layers. Thoroughly combine the rest of the ingredients using a blender or food processor. Pour over the casserole, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bake uncovered at 350º for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining chopped Green Garlic and let set about 10 minutes before cutting. Serves about 14.

CHRISTOPHER RANCH BAKED GARLIC
Cut the tip (1/4” to 1/2”) off several whole Christopher Ranch California Garlic bulbs and then gently remove loose outer layers of skin, slightly exposing the individual unpeeled cloves, but leaving the bulbs intact. Place bulbs cut side up in baking pan leaving a little space between each bulb. If desired, drizzle all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and favorite herbs or seasonings. Fill baking pan with enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan (about 1/4”). Seal pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350º for 60 minutes or until garlic cloves are very soft. To serve: Break clove off bulb and squeeze out pulp.

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