Garlic Transcendence: Crushing Nutritional Racism
Fire brought awareness. It allowed us to cook food, which gave our brains the nutrients needed to evolve. Without proper nutrition, our brains cannot function at their highest capacity.
This simple recipe is a pantry staple in any kitchen. Use with any dish that calls for garlic to add flavor intensity and a delicious immune boost. Add a drop to high heat oil when sautéing for a nice garlic flavor in foods. Puree garlic cloves and use on crostini or add to any soup or sauce. Add whole cloves to grilled veggies. Super versatile!
20 garlic cloves
2 cups olive oil
- Place garlic cloves in small saucepan. Cover with olive oil. Cook on medium heat until edges of garlic begin to brown 7-12 minutes.
- Turn off heat to let cool. At this point, add herbs, spices, or citrus peel for added flavor.
- Store at room temperature for a day or in the refrigerator indefinitely.
As we begin to acknowledge and dismantle institutional racism, we discover the root issue of nutrition, and how institutional racism has negatively affected the nutritional needs of non-whites in America. To what extent has this limited availability to healthy food hampered the development of the non-white brain? By climbing out of white supremacy, we can begin to view all bodies as equal, but it is necessary to examine how we got here in the first place.
Government programs aimed at helping the disenfranchised are full of items like cheese and sugary peanut butter, two common allergens. Imagine the difference whole food nutrition and education would make to the brain development of those receiving assistance. We know that improved diet gave more free time and higher cognition levels to our ancestors living in caves, which in turn allowed them to begin building the fabric of society. Higher levels of nutrition result in higher levels of brain function, so if only one group of the population is getting all their omegas, live enzymes, and gut flora, we cannot have a level playing field for brain development. The brain needs exceptional fuel to reach its highest potential. Good food and good nutritional education must be the mainstays in this development.
Swiss Chard And Sunflower Seed Pesto
13 (lucky) Swiss chard leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup vegan (or dairy) Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups slow-cooked garlic oil (recipe above)
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
Salt to taste (I use pink Himalayan for its amazing taste and nutritional benefits)
- Blend all ingredients in your food processor or Vitamix.
- Store in the fridge for up to a month. Use in any recipe in place of or in addition to traditional pesto.
When I first began working in a kitchen as a chef over 20 years ago, Black and Brown bodies were usually in the dish pit. Whenever I was in a new kitchen, it was usually assumed I was there for the clean-up end of food prep, not on the line, and definitely not in the driver’s seat of head chef.
As Black and Brown bodies step away from bondage and begin to speak our truth we must be fueled by the economic privilege of access to nutrient-dense foods. It is no coincidence that BLM (Black Lives Matter) emerges at a time when African Americans are more invested in the food community than ever before, with greatly increased visibility of Black vegans, food bloggers and head chefs, as well as the emergence of the first celebrity chefs in Brown bodies.
They say you can’t get enough of a good thing, but zucchini might be the exception. The flip between waiting for those first zucchini flowers to bud and running out of family and friends who want zucchini happens fast. Anyone who has grown this summer squash can attest to the fact. Zucchini is the thug in the garden that takes a mile when given an inch. Good news, this is one thug you don’t have to back down from. Stand your ground against this aggressive yet courageous courgette (the word for zucchini in many parts of the world). Having too much zucchini, if you are ready to explore this nutritious and low-calorie food, is a good problem!
This soup is one solution to that abundance. The coconut curried version is my personal fave, but this versatile vegetable can flip through flavors like a radio dial switching stations. Future versions you make could omit the curry and coconut milk. Rice milk or whole milk both work, and the Indian spices can be swapped out for garden fresh herbs. A little basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano work great fresh or dried.
If you are a cheese head like me, a dried aged cheese like parmesan goes great, as well as a fresher, creamy cheese like a ricotta. Vegan cheeses have come a long way both with parmesan and ricotta. When using cheese go light on the salt and always save a little to use as a garnish. A good rule of thumb is “you can always add more, but you can’t take out,” so go slowly, tasting as you go.
Slow-cooked garlic works in every version, both as a starting and a finishing oil. As a starting oil, it can be fortified by adding in equal parts high heat oil such as rice bran, sunflower, or grapeseed. This helps raise the smoke point, and allows you to cook the veggies at a high heat without burning. As a finishing oil, blend it into the soup to help give a nice silky texture, while reserving a quarter cup for a very tiny drop or two on top with fresh herbs for a yummy garnish.
Creating the spice blend also follow this same basic rule of going slow. Some spices have been sitting on a shelf for years slowly losing their flavor. Toasting spices before using is a sure way to get the most out of your spice. Take it a step further by purchasing a spice grinder and toasting spices whole. Ground spices toast up very quickly, but a whole spice is guaranteed to be fresher, since it hasn’t been ground yet. Both need a super-hot sauté pan; smaller ones are easier to manage.
Heat a sauté pan for 3-4 minutes to get it nice and hot. Have a bowl ready nearby that you are going to pour spices into since there’s no time to grab one once you start. If you’re using whole spices, have the grinder open nearby. For ground spices, remove the hot pan from the heat, pour spices into the pan, swirl for 7 seconds, place back on the burner for 2 seconds, and then pour the spices right out into your bowl. 9 seconds in total. This should be fun and exciting.
For whole spices, toast until fragrant. Get them nice and hot, until you can smell their fragrance and they start to smoke. Just a little smoke — then boom! — right into the spice grinder. Grind away! At this point you will be holding a smoking spice grinder and should feel like a spice wizard. If you want to whisper “I’m a spice wizard” it will actually make the food taste better. Send love to the food as you telepathically communicate with it. Love — the most important garnish. A little love goes a long way, so save a little for the soil it grew in and the water that helped it grow. Pour your ground spices into the bowl and set aside. This recipe should give you extra for your next curried dish.
For this particular blend, toast the coriander, cumin and fenugreek separately. Have a bowl ready with the curry powder and asafetida. Once ground, pour the three warm spices on top of the curry mixture, which will bring out the aroma, so stir in well once added. If this seems like too much work for simple spices, remember friend, you are a spice wizard now and that title means this kind of work. For those of you thinking, maybe I’m not ready to be a spice wizard yet, ground spices will work just fine. Regardless of your spice mastery, have this curry mixture ready before you start. Curry, coriander, and cumin are the most important. Fenugreek and asafetida are harder to find so don’t stress if you can’t find them.
1/4 cup curry powder
4 Tbls coriander
4 Tbls cumin
1 Tbls asafetida
1 Tbls fenugreek
CURRIED COCONUT ZUCCHINI SOUP
(Use and grow organic when possible!)
2 cups onion, roughly chopped
2 cups celery, roughly chopped
2 cups leeks, roughly chopped
10 cups zucchini, roughly chopped, bruised skins peeled
1/4 cup ginger, minced
2 Tbls lemongrass
2 cans coconut milk
6 cups veggie stock (recipe below)
2 cups vegan butter (or conventional)
1/4 cup agave
1/4 cup basil
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup mint
4 Tbls salt
2 Tbls pepper
8 Tbls curry spice mixture (recipe above)
1/2 cup garlic oil
1/2 cup sunflower oil
Cut up all the veggies, mince the garlic, ginger and lemon grass. Pull basil, mint, and set the stalks aside. Save all vegetable scraps for your stock recipe below.
8 cups water
All the scraps from the veggies you cut up
Reserved herb stalks
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Bring everything to a boil except herb stalks. Right before straining throw in herb stalks. Smell. Strain. Set aside.
To make soup:
- Sauté onion, celery and leeks in oil mixture on medium setting until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
- Turn on high for 2 minutes, add garlic, ginger and lemongrass, cook for 1 more minute and turn down to low.
- Add zucchini and stir. Add veggie stock and turn up to medium high. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove lid and add coconut milk. Cook on low for 10 more minutes.
- Blend with either with an immersion blender or a stand up blender, then add the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with spice mixture. Garnish with fresh herbs, shredded coconut, lime juice and garlic oil, separately or together. Nice job!
As equality truly begins to blossom in America, we must continue to level the developmental playing field in every way. It is a challenge to flourish when people are living in fear, constant stress and deprivation, as so many are. Yes, a dandelion can grow through a crack in the sidewalk, but there’s a whole field of flowers under that sidewalk. Those who break free first hold the light for others. If we remove that barrier, all the flowers can come through, not just the toughest and strongest, for the beauty of one flower cannot compare to a full field in full bloom. The smallest and weakest must be given a chance to grow, for sometimes the stunted seed begets the biggest fruit.
Kevin Williams is the chef at Roots Natural Foods, Kitchen and Juice Bar in Leominster, MA. Kevin spent the past ten years as a chef in California, traveling and exploring the world to expand his cooking knowledge. He loves art, is an avid biker, and a board member of the Twin Cities Rail Trail between Fitchburg and Leominster, which is slated to open by the end of 2021. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.rootsnaturalfoods.com.