Going green

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Green garlic makes a brief appearance each spring. An appearance I routinely miss. Leaving me paging the trendy cookbook, sighing over green-garlic souffle and green-garlic soup manque.

I imagined the rare find as a standard bulb of garlic, pale, papery skin concealing flesh colored wasabi-green. One whiff and the cook would succumb to pure pleasure overload.

Eventually I learned green garlic is standard garlic, pulled from the ground early. Young green, not green green.

I could foster my own green garlic by dropping a couple of cloves in the ground and letting those overeager shoots have at it. A project that remains on the good intentions list.

So when this year's green-garlic season arrived I tracked down a guy who grows his own. He brought me a bag of Russian red, pulled up green.

Green garlic looks like a fat scallion or a thin leek. Trim away the root and the green portion of the stem, leaving a couple of inches of white stalk, sometimes robed in purple. Split, inhale and succumb to pure pleasure overload. Green garlic tastes like garlic. Young, eager, rambunctious garlic. Like garlic that's, well, green.

I worked my way through those recipes: green-garlic tart, soup, souffle. All that cream and cheese and egg seemed to dull the garlic enthusiasm. So I went simple: green garlic, caramelized brown in butter. The intense earthy flavor would probably make the omelet, sandwich or pizza swoon. I wouldn't know. I ate it straight.

Caramelized green garlic

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Makes: 1 cup

Ingredients: 8 green garlics* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter Coarse salt 1-11/2 cups chicken broth 2 tablespoons sherry Freshly ground black pepper

Sliver: Trim away the root end and green portion of the green garlic. Slice white portion in half the long way. Lay flat and slice into slivers the long way. You should have about 2 cups.

Caramelize: Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet. Add garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook uncovered over medium heat until some of the garlic looks golden, about 7 minutes.

Simmer: Pour in broth to cover (about 1 cup). Cover skillet and let cook over medium heat, stirring now and then and adding more broth as needed. Continue cooking until garlic is richly browned, completely tender and broth and butter have melded into a delicious sauce, about 20 minutes. Spike with sherry. Season lightly with pepper.

Strategize: Feel free to stand at the stove and dispatch the entire pan. Otherwise consider your options: Serve a spoonful alongside grilled meat, smooth into a tart shell and bake, tangle with skinny noodles, or heap onto grilled bread. It's all good.

*Immature garlic plants, harvested before the garlic cloves have formed. Available at farmers markets in spring. If you've missed the moment, you can substitute 4 leeks, white portion slivered, and 2 standard cloves of garlic, chopped.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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