I love Iron Chef and I love the “secret ingredient” challenges, so I am inspired to feature an ingredient weekly on my blog called “Friday’s Focus Ingredients”. With these ingredient posts, we’ll learn about the ingredient and discover its’ use in recipes. For my very first ingredient post, I’d like to focus on garlic.
The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning “spear leek.” Dating back over 6,000 years, it is native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Garlic is one of the most versatile flavors to ever grace a kitchen. It not only tastes wonderful, but it’s very good for your body. Garlic (allium sativum) is dubbed The Stinking Rose, yet it is actually a member of the lily (Lilaceae) family and a cousin to leeks, chives, onions, and shallots.
Surprisingly, garlic was frowned upon by foodie snobs in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth century, being found almost exclusively in ethnic dishes in working-class neighborhoods. But, by 1940, America had embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a minor seasoning, but as a major ingredient in recipes.
Garlic crops are harvested in mid-July and hung in sheds to dry before reaching their prime in late-July/early-August.
There are over 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide. American garlic, with its white, papery skin and strong flavor is one of the most common varieties. Italian and Mexican garlic, both of which have pink- to purple-colored skins, are slightly milder-flavored varieties.
Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually.
GARLIC COOKING TIPS & HINTS
Believe it or not, one raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed releases more flavor than a dozen cooked whole cloves. When garlic cloves are cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. This nutty flavor makes a surprisingly nice addition to desserts, such as brownies or even ice cream.
Cooked, whole, unpierced cloves barely have any aroma at all, while raw garlic is the strongest in flavor. When sauteing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavor turns intensely bitter, and you’ll have to start over. If you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel garlic cloves before pressing, which can be a wonderful time-saver. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity.
If you don’t have a peeler, place the garlic on a cutting board on its side, and gently press down quickly with the flat side of a butcher knife. The skin should then easily peel off.
Garlic can also be purchased as peeled whole cloves or minced, both stored in olive or vegetable oil. It is imperative that garlic in oil be stored under refrigeration to avoid potentially-deadly botulism bacteria growth. If you use a lot of garlic and wish to cut your preparation time down, you can pre-peel and store your own in olive oil in the refrigerator, but the best flavor will come from freshly-peeled cloves. Use garlic powder, garlic salt, and garlic extract (juice) only as a last resort.
An easy rule of thumb to remember regarding the potency of the flavor of garlic is: The smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor.
GARLIC AND HEALTH
Garlic has long been considered a medicinal food. It was used to protect against plague by monks in the Middle Ages. Hippocrates used garlic vapors to treat cervical cancer. Garlic poultices were placed on wounds during World War II as an inexpensive, and apparently quite effective replacement for antibiotics which were scarce during wartime.
Now science is beginning to prove the medicinal properties of garlic that our ancestors took for granted. Studies have shown garlic can suppress the growth of tumors, and is a potent antioxidant good for cardiovascular health.
Other studies show garlic can reduce LDLs or “bad” cholesterol and is a good blood-thinning agent to avoid blood clots which could potentially lead to heart attack or stroke.
All of this natural medicine comes at a cost of only 4 calories per clove.
PLEASE NOTE: All information was taken from http://homecooking.about.com/ website
Here are a few simple recipes to try that features garlic as a big component.
Pasta with Garlic and Oil
This is one of the easiest and tastiest dishes imaginable. Slice garlic into thin, even slices – about three large cloves per person. Add enough good olive oil to almost cover the garlic. Sauté over medium heat until they begin to color. Pour over freshly cooked spaghetti or noodles, toss and serve.
Variations to try once you have made your initial assessment of the garlic:
- Add dried chilies to the oil along with the garlic.
- Add a handful of fresh chopped herbs to the pasta and garlic as you toss it.
Here is a classic recipe for a garlic salad dressing that goes well with a wide variety of salads.
1/4 cup pure apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
one or more cloves of garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced
Shake the first four ingredients together and taste. There should be a nice balance with no one ingredient dominating. Adjust if necessary, and then add the garli
One of my favorite places to eat when I was still living in Minnesota was Timberlodge Steakhouse (being in CA now, we don’t have those here) – this is an imitation of the garlic butter that they bring out with that delicious loaf of fresh baked honey wheat bread.
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
Soften butter, make sure not to melt (best thing it to take the butter out and let it soften at room temparature)
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork – mash and stir. The texture should be stiff and not runny.
- When I make stir-frys, I always add about 2-3 minced garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute it for a minute or two before I add my protein
- I make a simple brine using 2 quarts water, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2-3 garlic cloves (smashed and peeled), and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme – you can double, triple this recipe for the size of bird you’re using (I make this brine for BBQ Chicken using 6 chicken legs and thighs – still connected
- If I buy store-bought spaghetti sauce, I’ll add about 1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic, or throw in 2 whole garlic cloves smashed and peeled
- I add garlic salt to sauteed vegetables instead of using regular salt
- For a simple dipping sauce for bread, add some fresh minced garlic with some olive oil
- If making pizzas at home, add fresh minced garlic as one of your toppings