“To be sure, ‘tis not for Ladies Palats, nor those who court them.” John Evelyn, Acetaria (1699)
In South Florida during the 1960s and ‘70s, bumper stickers attached to the fenders of automobiles announced, “Eat garlic. It’s chic to reek!” Downtown Miami had definitely become chic and wanted the world to know it! A casual stroll on Flagler Street still leaves a non-aficionado gasping for air from the fumes of passers-by. The power of this innocuous little white member of the lily family that breaks apart into a multitude of tear-shaped cloves is all encompassing. It pours out of the pores and permeates the clothing, blocking out any efforts of soap and perfume. No one claims guilt for the stench because everyone is involved. And the affair with this prince of the pantry that causes pernicious results when added to delicate vegetables and fish is now accepted as part of America’s cuisine. Garlic festivals abound from Michigan’s northern peninsula east to Vermont and west to California with recipes that call for as many as 20 cloves to season everything from soup to ice cream.
Garlic is one of the world’s oldest herbs. It has been aligned with medicine and superstition since ancient times. Emperor Hung-ti of Hsia of the first Chinese dynasty (2205-1766 BC) cultivated the bulb as an antitoxin against poisonous plants. Louis Pasteur confirmed the anti-bacterial benefit of garlic in 1858 and Albert Schweitzer used it successfully to treat amoebic colitis. In Europe, it was worn around the neck as well as eaten as a protection against vampires. Assuming, of course, that vampires existed, one can’t be certain if it was the magical properties that thwarted evil or if the vampires simply refused to suck the blood of another creature with such atrocious breath.
Vampires or no vampires, modern medical evidence seems to be in favor of this smelly substance that presumes to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer, strokes and heart attacks, as well as treat bacterial and viral infections, and kill certain parasites. Europeans who lived in the late Middle Ages obviously kept a track record of folks whose stronger immune systems warded off the plague because of their consumption of garlic. Nutritionists and doctors now support past studies lauding the medicinal value of the bulb.
Garlic, like oysters and caviar, is an acquired taste for people of Nordic origins, probably because it once grew more prevalently in southern climates. In southern Spain, Sicily, Greece and the Middle East, it is virtually impossible to find any meat or sauce prepared without its infusion. During the Crusades, the herb found its way into middle Europe and France, where it was cultivated during the summer months, but Scandinavia continued to savor the natural flavors of the bounty that swam off its shores and grew in its soil, employing few embellishments other than a little sage, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and bay leaf, which were imported from Indonesia. One of the world’s most famous experts on cuisine, Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), described the air in Provence (historical region of southwest France on the Mediterranean) as being impregnated with the aroma of garlic. Garlic is the main seasoning in their most renowned seafood stew, Bouillabaisse, as well in all of their sauces.
Crush or chop garlic and set aside 10-15 minutes before cooking to allow its healing properties to develop. Store garlic in a well-ventilated cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate unless you separate the cloves and immerse them in oil, peeled or unpeeled. If the garlic isn’t peeled, the cloves will remain firm longer, but peeling will be more difficult. Fresh garlic which is held in open-air storage for any length of time will lose some of its pungency and may develop sprouts. The garlic is still usable.
Must garlic be peeled? Press each clove against the cutting board with the flat side of a heavy kitchen knife, or press between the thumb and forefinger to loosen the skin first. If the recipe calls for a large quantity of garlic, drop the cloves into boiling water for one minute. Drain quickly. They will peel easily. Or, microwave for five seconds before peeling.
Having grown up in Michigan where our families stemmed from German and Nordic heritage, our mothers engrained us with the edict, “Ladies should smell of perfume and flowers; not onions and garlic”. Some lessons are not easily discarded and, so, disposable plastic gloves to the rescue! Or, rub your fingers first with salt (Kosher or coarse sea salt are best) and then lemon juice. The one that seems to work best is to slightly wet your fingers and sprinkle with salt. Then rub with a stainless steel teaspoon under running water for a few seconds. There is a chemical reaction that removes the odor. Eat parsley for the breath or chew on a coffee bean or two.
To chop or press: Pressed (crushed) garlic doesn’t go as far because some of the pulp is lost. Hand chopped (minced) gives greater yield.
Tip: Add salt needed in the recipe into the minced garlic while it is on the cutting board. The salt will absorb the garlic juices making it easier to scoop the garlic up.
Garlic salt contains a blend of approximately ninety percent salt, nine percent garlic and one percent free-flowing agent. If you use garlic salt, do not add any salt until you taste.
Powdered Garlic is five times stronger than raw garlic. Its flavor is released when moisture is added.
8 cloves fresh garlic, mashed
½ pound butter or butter substitute, softened
Work garlic into softened butter. Form into logs and refrigerate or freeze, covered. Other herbs of choice may also be added.
Or, melt butter over very low heat. Peel and split garlic cloves. Simmer 45 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Skim off milk solids. Refrigerate.
GARLIC MARINADE FOR PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING
Keep it handy in the refrigerator
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons brandy
10 cloves chopped garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, peeled
Gently boil all together 10-15 minutes. Cool. Blend in blender. Save in an airtight container to marinate chicken, shrimp or beef.
BAKED WHOLE GARLIC HEADS
Hors d’oeuvre to spread on fresh warm bread or to add to cooked foods
1 tablespoon olive oil for each head
1 teaspoon melted butter or butter substitute for each head
A sprinkling of salt and pepper
Optional: A touch of white pepper or cayenne
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Remove as much of the outer “tissue paper” white covering from the whole head.
3. Place head(s) in a covered baking dish or on a piece of heavy aluminum foil large enough to tent the garlic. Roll in oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and white pepper or Cayenne, if you like spice.
4. Cover dish or create an airtight tent with the foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until cloves are soft enough to squeeze from their skins.
Yield: 4-6 Servings
Quick and Easy
3-4 pound chicken, well washed, extra fat removed and cut into quarters
Salt and pepper to sprinkle
Paprika to sprinkle
¼ cup Heinz® or Bennett’s® Chili Sauce
¼ cup dry white wine or ginger ale
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 onions, sliced thin on the round
4 tablespoons butter or butter substitute, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Cut chicken into quarters. Remove extra fat and wash pieces well, removing the blood deposits along the backbone. Dry on paper toweling before sprinkling with salt and pepper.
3. Combine chili sauce and wine (ginger ale) with the garlic cloves and spoon into the pan.
4. Peel and slice the onions and set over the sauce.
5. Set the chicken pieces over the onions and brush well with the melted butter. Sprinkle with paprika.
6. Roast 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Roast 30 minutes longer, or until brown and tender.
VEGETARIAN PESTO SOUP
Yield: Approximately 8 Servings
6 cups vegetable broth (32 ounces Pacific®Organic Vegetable Broth in carton)
1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
15 cloves peeled and chopped garlic
Juice of ½ lime
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts (Set on foil and baked at 250°F for 10 minutes)
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (eliminate if vegan)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 large ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
Extra Parmesan cheese to top
¼ cup toasted pine nuts to top
1. Bring to a boil: vegetable broth, basil leaves, chopped onion, garlic, and lime juice. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
2. Pour into a blender. Add toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese and blend. Return to soup pot.
3. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute. Peel under cool water. Remove seeds and chop coarse. Add to soup. Cook over low heat five minutes.
4. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and pine nuts sprinkled over the top.
Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.