To borrow a line from my favorite poet seems the best way for me to begin this ode to my favorite herb/spice. I grew up in a house where my mother’s repertoire of spices was seasoned salt, table salt, garlic salt. Oh, and there may have been a jar of onion flakes and garlic flakes too, but you get my meaning. As I have grown and expanded the horizons of my palate, I have come to really love my garlic. My husband was teasing me one evening as I was cooking, every pot on the stove had garlic in it! Yes, it is pungent and gives bad breath. However, it really has many health benefits as well.
HISTORY & HEALTH: Garlic has been used and known for thousands of years. In fact, models of garlic were found in the tomb of King Tut. It has antibacterial properties and can boost the immune system. Next on the list is cholesterol and high blood pressure. It has been shown to possibly decrease cholesterol levels and therefore affecting blood pressure. Mosquitoes don’t like people who use garlic, which is a really nice thing! And of course, we all know that VAMPIRES don’t like garlic, so obviously Bella didn’t eat any!
HOW TO CHOOSE: when choosing a bulb, or head, of garlic at the grocery, look for nice, white, papery skin. If you see any green shoots coming out of the top, separation of the cloves on the bottom, or cloves that crush easily or are soft, that bulb is old, put it back and move on. I was a Pampered Chef consultant for a while and my joke to my guests about choosing the right head of garlic, I would simply think of my lovely husband, white and tight! Just remember “WHITE AND TIGHT’ and it will be a good choice.
STORAGE: Fresh garlic should be stored in a dark cool place. Think of where you store potatoes, not in the fridge, that will affect the flavor of the garlic.
HOW IT COMES: There are many forms garlic comes in and depending on how you want to use it, it can be odorless and not give bad breath or as stinky as you want to be. Let’s see there’s fresh, powder, salt, flakes, minced in a jar, roasted at the deli. When using fresh, you can mince it, slice it, chop it, or use a press and crush it. The amount of flavor you want will dictate how you prepare it. Crushing it in a press will expose the most of the oils and give you a stronger flavor than any of the others.
ROASTED: To roast a head of garlic, cut off the top half, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in heavy duty foil (or use a garlic baker) and bake at 350F for 35 to 45 minutes. This changes the flavor of the garlic, making it very mild and almost nutty. You can use it in cooking for a different, almost smoky taste. Or, one of my favorite ways, spread it on fresh, crusty bread. The cloves become very soft and spread almost like butter.
PEELING: If you are going to chop, slice, or mince your fresh clove of garlic, the easiest way to get the skin off is to lay the clove on a cutting board and use the heel of your hand and the flat of a knife. Lay the knife flat on the clove, sharp edge pointing away from you, and give it a good smack keeping the heel of your hand toward the dull side of the knife. This will just crack the clove enough to make the skin easily come right off.
CRUSHING: To crush the garlic, all you need is a good garlic press. I love this method because there’s no peeling required! Just put the whole clove in the press and give it a good squeeze. The press likely came with a little plastic scraping tool, use that to scrape the garlic off the press. Left behind in the well of the press will be the skin of the clove, throw it away. Here’s my favorite press https://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26463&words=GARLIC PRESS
(no, this is not my website and I get nothing from sharing this with you, other than knowing you will have the best garlic press out there!)
FRESH VS JARRED: I have to tell you, I used to use the jarred minced garlic because I thought I was too busy to mess with peeling/chopping/mincing/pressing the fresh garlic. Well, I was completely wrong! Ok, so chopping/mincing/slicing does take a little longer than scooping a bit out of a jar, but the difference in flavor is so worth that little bit of time! It is truly amazing the difference the fresh made in the flavor of my meals. My problem with the jarred garlic, as with anything that is jarred/canned, you have no idea how long it’s been in that jar and it seems to decrease the intensity of the flavor.
If you want the health benefits of garlic without actually eating it, there are supplements that come in capsule form and will not give you bad breath. And for as long as I’ve taken them, i really have not had an issue with them coming back up at all.
BULB (OR HEAD) VS CLOVE: Garlic grows beneath the surface and sends shoots out of the ground. The bulbs are white and contain anywhere between 10 and 20 cloves each. It is very important to know the difference between a ‘clove’ and a ‘bulb’. I heard a story once of a newly wed making 20 clove garlic chicken, but she didn’t know the difference and thought the bulb was a clove! Needless to say, her dish was very stinky, but her sweet husband ate it and told her he loved it!
Here’s one of my favorite, extremely simple and delicious recipes involving garlic and it goes really well with pasta.
1 can 5 count Grands biscuits flaky layers cut into 1/8ths
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1tsp Italian seasoning
1 to 2 tbsp butter
Melt the butter in an ovenproof 8″ skillet/frying pan. Press the garlic into the pan, add the Italian seasoning and stir. Cook just long enough the garlic gets soft. Place the biscuit pieces into the pan and toss to coat all the pieces.
Place the pan in a preheated 350F oven and bake about 10 min, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and invert it on a serving plate. Enjoy! This is so delicious and so easy. You can use more or less of the garlic and butter, whichever you prefer.
Now that I’ve got you up to date on the garlic, I think I”m going to go and have some on my Cheerios! (Just kidding, I can’t have garlic for breakfast, it’s a little early yet, but lunch isn’t out of the question!)