May It Please the Palate ...

Garlic for Everyone

By Nick Roumel

Tradition in Greek cuisine holds that if a garlic dish is served, everyone must at least try a bite, lest the abstainer be offended by the garlic breath of the others.

Apparently, one bite of the skorda — garlic in Greek — has enough magical power to make one immune from the pungent breath of Uncle Costas, looming in to kiss both your cheeks.

Garlic has stronger powers as well. It is said to ward off the evil eye.

We proved this for a particular Michigan-Ohio State football game.

My cousin Dino had been my guest at six various UM football games over the years, and unbelievably, the Wolverines didn’t win a single one.

One year, he insisted on coming to a Michigan-Ohio State contest.

I would not let him attend unless I could pin a clove of garlic to his sweater and recite ancient incantations. Michigan won.

Skordalia is a garlic dip made with olive oil, garlic, base like bread, ground almonds, or mashed potatoes. In fact, some cooks swear by instant mashed potatoes as the perfect ingredient.

The version I am presenting to you is from the island of Tinos, and includes all three — bread, almond and potato — and is flavored with capers.

Skordalia traditionally accompanies salt cod fritters or roasted beets, but it can also be served with fried or raw vegetables. With the addition of a few drops of water or broth, it becomes a sauce for any kind of prepared fish or vegetable, pita bread, or to eat plain by the spoonful just before you greet your relatives.


Skordalia Me Kapari

(Garlic Dip with Capers)
 From “The Foods of the Greek Islands,”
Aglaia Kremezi

? cup blanched whole almonds, soaked overnight in water and drained
2 cups cubed day-old whole wheat bread, soaked in water until softened
3-5 garlic cloves, quartered
1/3 extra virgin olive oil
? cup capers, preferably salt packed, rinsed and drained (divided)
3-4 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
freshly ground white pepper
salt (optional)
chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

1. Squeeze the soaked bread to extract the excess water and place it in a food processor. Add the garlic and process into a smooth paste.

2. With the motor running, add the oil, a little at a time. Add 3 tablespoons of the capers (reserving the rest for garnish) and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Add the almonds and pulse a few times, until they are coarsely ground.

3. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and fold in the potato. (Do not be tempted to use the food processor for this; the potato would become gluey.) Season with white
pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed – the capers are usually salty enough – and more pepper and/or lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of capers and the chopped parsley over the skordalia before serving.

Or you can simply stash a few spoonsful in the pockets and possessions of anyone you want to do your bidding, mutter some incomprehensible Greek, and they are yours to control.

As long as you don’t mind a little garlic breath!

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor.
 

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