I was trolling through different blogs the other day and ran across what has got to be my favorite food blog event so far. Danielle at Habeas Brulee has come up with a "Yes, of course you can pair garlic with that!" food event. All one has to do is cook something pairing garlic with another food that it normally isn't associated with and submit it to Danielle for testing. I knew this was my chance-yes, this was the event I was going to enter! With garlic as the medium, how could I not?
You see, my entire family loves garlic. For years my brother religiously set the table with a garlic press next to his knife and fork so he could make fresh garlic bread to go along with whatever our meal happened to be. In Belize we nail it over doors to keep evil spirits and vampires away. How many foods do you know that defeat evil beings and make good food great all at once? Considering garlic's superhero profile, how could I not be a fan?
When I think of pairing garlic with something extreme, the first thing that comes to mind is garlic ice cream. The problem with that is, its the first thing to come to everyone else' mind as well. It's cliche, passe-like Cubism, its already been done.
So I had to get more creative. As usual I had an enormous pile of fruit and vegetables in the kitchen, and I turned to these for inspiration. I wanted something seasonal, something yummy and filling, definitely a main course. It was then that pictures started forming in my head. Roasted garlic-that was the ticket. Mellow and autumnal, with deep undercurrents of sweet garlic flavour. I envisioned a classic fall dish: baked apples. But this time with a savoury twist. Baked apples filled with a garlic, apple and goat meat stuffing. Garlic and Apples-not common bed fellows, but I was sure it would work, especially with a dash or two of cinnamon and curry and some raisins to bring it all together.
So the Sunday before last I ran to the farmers market and made my purchases: garlic (of course), big firm tart baking apples, and ground goat meat from Cibola Farms. Then all my ingredients sat around until this Sunday when I finally got around to putting my recipe in action.
Roasted Garlic and Goat Stuffed Apples with Honey and Raisins
(served with Pseudo-saffron Rice)
Serves three people. About 310 calories per serving (one stuffed apple). If you eliminate the cashew nut topping, each apple is only 263 calories and much lower in fat.
3 heads and 3 cloves of garlic (I used Chesnok Red, an endangered heirloom variety)
1/2 pound ground organic and/or free-range goat meat
1 medium onion, minced
3 large tart baking apples
2 tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp oregano
about 1/8 tsp cinnamon (one large dash of cinnamon)
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1/3 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground paprika
about 1/3 tsp good curry powder or to taste
about 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
about 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp clover or other neutral honey
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely minced or coarsely ground cashews (optional but delicious!)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the ground goat meat, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper and let sit in the fridge. Place the three heads of garlic on a piece of tin foil and let them bake in the oven until they are soft. Let cool and squeeze out the cloves of garlic into a bowl. Set aside. This can be done ahead of time, and even up to a day before. Just store the garlic in an air tight container. Thinly slice the three fresh cloves of garlic and set aside.
2. Take the apples and after washing, use a sharp knife with a thin blade to cut a large hole out of the center. You don't want to just cut out the core , or else there wont be enough space for the stuffing, so cut out a hole that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom (like an inverted cone). Make sure to cut out the blossom end (at the bottom), but don't make a large hole through. This way the filling won't leak out all over the place, but there will be plenty of space for the goat meat. Here you can see what it should look like:
Now, take the flesh that you cut out of the apples, get rid of the core and seeds and mince the rest into tiny pieces. This will form part of the filling, so don't throw it away! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees once more.
3. Once you have your apples and roasted garlic prepared, heat the 1/2 tablespoon of honey in a nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Once it begins to liquefy, add the three cloves of sliced garlic and cook, stirring, for a few seconds. Don't let them burn. Dump in the goat meat and stir, cooking, until it is browned all over. Stir in all the roasted garlic, the raisins, the minced onion and apple and the curry powder, salt and paprika. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the apple is soft and the onion is translucent. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if the stuffing seems dry.
While the stuffing is cooking, take your three prepared apples and place them in a pan (I used a round metal cake pan). Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of water in the bottom and put them in the preheated oven. Let them cook for 10 minutes while you finish the stuffing. Taste the garlic-goat meat mixture and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you can't taste the curry at all, you may need a touch more, as curry powders vary widely in potency. Add the lemon zest and juice, stir until well combined and turn off the heat. If you want at this point you can put the stuffing in an air tight container and stick it in the fridge until you are ready to make your apples. It will keep for at least 3 or 4 days, allowing you to put this together as a special weekday meal with little time needed for preparation.
4. Pull the apples out of the oven and fill with the goat stuffing. If you have any left over, consider yourself lucky-it is equally good stuffed into a pita or served over rice. If you are using them, top each apple with a tablespoon of cashews. Put the apples back in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are tender all the way through (you can test one with a knife if necessary). Once they are cooked, set each one on a plate and surround with a bed of pseudo-saffron rice (the recipe follows below). Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!
Pseudo-Saffron Raisin Rice
Serves 3. Total recipe about 400 calories, 133 calories per serving.
The cheap and easy version of saffron rice, this dish cozies up equally well to a wide range of asian inspired meals, and goes marvelously with the garlic stuffed apples. The rice can be made ahead of time and reheated on the stovetop or even in the microwave. It will keep fine in the fridge for up to a week in an air tight container.
1 cup long grain brown Basmati rice
about 2 cups water
about 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 medium onion, minced.
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp tomato paste or thick plain tomato sauce (do not use ketchup!)
1 hearty dash curry powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 1/2 tsp lemon zest or more to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan to medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir until coated with oil, cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add the water, turmeric, raisins, tomato paste, salt, pepper and curry powder.
2. Put the heat on high and bring rice to a boil. Stir occasionally until the water is absorbed and the rice is partially cooked. Lower the heat to medium-low, add a dash of water if necessary to prevent sticking, and cover the pot. Check and stir occasionally as needed until the rice is cooked through.
3. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, stir until well combined and serve with the stuffed apples. Basmati rice can take a while to cook, so if you want everything to finish at the same time, I would start cooking the rice at about the same time as you begin making the goat stuffing (step 3 for the stuffed apples). Once the water is added the rice won't demand too much attention.
I was very pleased with how well this came out. The stuffed apples, all browned and delectable on top, look amazing on a bed of this rice, and they taste delicious too-make sure you get a little of everything on your fork for a true taste sensation! If you don't want to bother with the apples, the stuffing is great by itself, or with rice or pita, but make sure to try it once as written here, maybe for a weekend dinner with a nice side salad.
Note: my camera broke over Labor Day weekend on a trip to Atlanta and since then I have been using Jose's digital camera which, though very convenient, doesn't have all the wonderful zoom capabilities of mine. I also took these pictures at night, with flash, so they don't reflect the glory of this dish quite as well as I would like.