BUYING, STORING, AND USING GARLIC
There are several varieties of garlic, but those found in most American
markets are the purplish-red and the white. Choose fresh garlic carefully.
Try to avoid garlic packaged in boxes; you need to be able to lift the bulbs
in your hand and squeeze them. Buy large, heavy bulbs that have not begun to
sprout and have no shriveled or bruised cloves. (Remember a clove is one
section and a bulb or head is the whole thing). If only small heads are
available, increase the amount of garlic used in each recipe. Keep the garlic
heads in a basket in a cool, well-ventilated part of the kitchen. Do not
Don't buy too much garlic at a time. As it loses its freshness, it
begins to shrivel and sprout. Never use shriveled cloves or those that
develop bad spots. If the cloves are frim but have begun to sprout, do not
use them whole in long-cooked, mild dishes. They may still be crushed or
minced, however, and used as a seasoning. Split each sprouting clove, remove
and discard the green sprout, and proceed.
Fresh garlic kept in a dry, well-ventilated place will last about a
month. If necessary to store garlic longer, peel the cloves, cover them with
olive oil, and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for three
To store garlic conveniently for any length of time without the use of
oil, Madelene Hill from Hilltop Herb Farm in Texas suggests using the freezer.
Her advice: "buy only the freshest head. Separate the heads into cloves (no
need to peel) and place in plastic bags. Tie the bags closed and freeze. The
garlic will keep indefinitely in the freezer, and your freezer will NOT smell
like garlic. To use, simply remove as many cloves as you need, peel while
still frozen and use as you would unfrozen garlic."
Braids of garlic are very attractive and an ornament to any kitchen,
but in many parts of the country they may be far from fresh. If the heads
contain some shriveled cloves, use the braids for decoration and buy your
cooking garlic loose. If you live in a garlic growing area and can purchase
fresh braids, use the bulbs quickly.
Serious garlic lovers should have on hand the following equipment:
A SHARP KNIFE AND A WOODEN CHOPPING BOARD for mincing and chopping
garlic cloves. Keep the wooden board well scrubbed to prevent bacteria and
odor. Keep the knife sharpened.
A RUBBER MALLET for crushing. Using this utensil for whacking garlic
cloves gives the cook a marvelous sense of release. It is almost as good a
tension reliever as whacking bread dough.
A FINE MESHED SIEVE OR STRAINER AND A "PUSHER" ( a wooden pestle,
spatula or spoon). You will use this time and time again for straining soups
and sauces containing long-cooked garlic cloves. Pushing them through the
mesh reduces them to a puree. If they were cooked unpeeled, the skin stays
behind as the pulp goes through.
A PERFORATED POTTERY "GARLIC CROCK" or a loosely woven wire basket to
store the bulbs.
A FEW "NONREACTIVE" POTS--pots that will not chemically react with
acid ingredients such as wine, citrus juices, or tomatoes, causing the color
or flavor of food to turn. Stainless steel, glass, ceramics, and enamel are
nonreactive materials, while copper, cast iron, and aluminum are considered
Don't forget that the old way of using garlic as a pungent seasoning
is still wonderful. Some hints follow to help you season splendidly.
In its raw form, garlic is powerful. Those misguided souls who
persist in thinking of garlic as vulgar, and even inedible, are usually
thinking about it in its raw state. Pungency can be tempered by marinating
raw garlic in an acid solution, using citrus juice, vinegar, or wine. But
remember raw garlic has an excitement all its own. It may not do as an
everyday food, but it provides an occasional exhilarating jolt to jaded taste
Avoid garlic presses. They will reduce garlic to an evil-smelling
mush. Instead mince the cloves with a sharp knife or -- for maximum garlickly
flavor -- crush they by whacking them with a rubber mallet (available in all
hardware stores). Crushing raw garlic releases its oils and the flavor will
be at it strongest. The mallet method has the added advantage of facilitating
the peeling. Hit the unpeeled clove lightly with the mallet to loosen the
skin, remove the skin, and then hit the clove several times to crush it. No
mallet? Until you get one, use the flat side of a chef's knife or cleaver to
press down on the clove. The remove the loosened skin and proceed.
Raw garlic, if allowed to saute until brown, becomes bitter,
unpleasant, and inedigestible. Instead, saute it very gently and at the very
most, allow it to turn a very pale golden color. DO NOT let it brown, or the
dish will be spoiled. However, whole garlic cloves that have been gentled by
simmering or boiling can be browned and even carmelized with delicious
Garlic powder, garlic salt, and granulated garlic impart an acrid,
rancid flavor to foods. Avoid these products by using fresh cloves instead.
A salad without garlic is like a hug without a kiss, a day without
sunshine; in fact, it's a damn shame. One of the best ways to permeate a
salad with the flavor of garlic is to split a clove, then rub the salad bowl
thoroughly with the split clove. Let the bowl dry for a few moments, then add
the salad ingredients, the dressing, and toss. Add an additional scent of
garlic by rubbing the heel of a stale loaf of French bread thoroughly with a
split clove. Toss this CHAPON with the salad. Whoever gets to eat the
crunchy, flavorful morsel is very lucky indeed.
iIf you want to add garlic flavor to a sauce or saute, but want no actual
garlic pieces in the finished dish, put some cloves of garlic on toothpicks.
Saute them, simmer them, and then--before the dish is served--pluck them out
by their toothpicks. They make perfectly delicious little treats for the
If you want to add zest to your favorite fried chicken recipe, try
Andrea Smith's method. Andrea, an Atlanta cooking teacher and food consultant,
recalls her mother's secret of delicious fried chicken: "the use of garlic
and onions to flavor the frying oil." Heat oil, add sliced onion and chopped
garlic and cook until golden. Discard solids and proceed with your recipe.
This works well for frying fish and shellfish as well.
A FEW WORDS ON INGREDIENTS:
BUTTER Nothing compares with the taste of sweet, unsalted butter. Do
not use salted butter, whipped butter, or margarine for the recipes in this
book. To clarify butter heat it slowly in a heavy pan. Skim off the foam and
let the sediment settle on the bottom of the pan. Slowly pour the butter
through a strainer that is lined with several thicknesses of cheesecloth,
discarding the sediment. The clarified butter will keep in the refrigerator
CHEESES. Buy the best available. Do NOT substitute danish fontina
for the superior Italian kind, for instance, if you can possibly help it.
Never use those horrible gluey triangles of processed cheese, misguidedly
labeled Gruyere, in place of the real thing from Switzerland. And avoid those
dreadful jars of domestic sawdust passed off as Parmesan. More and more
supermarkets across the country are carrying quality cheeses these days and
many cities and towns have excellent cheese shops. Use them well. Your
cooking will suffer if you settle for inferior cheeses.
STOCK. Many of the recipes call for stock. It is easy to make your
own and store it in the freezer, but should you have none on hand, there are
various canned broths available. For best results, buy a broth that does not
need diluting. Avoid bouillon cubes.
HERBS. Fresh herbs are ideal, of course, but they are not always
obtainable. If you must use dried herbs, buy them in small quantities, store
them in a cool, dark, dry place (NOT on a shelf above the stove), and throw
them away if they start to lose their fragrance and grow musty. The rule of
thumb is to use three times as much fresh herb as dried, but be careful; too
much dried herb in a dish can be disastrous. When using dried herbs, crumble
them between your fingers to release the flavor before dropping them into the
pot. Dried herbs are best added toward the beginning of the cooking process,
fresh toward the end.
SALT. The desirable amount of salt is very much a matter of taste, so
please your own taste. I believe less is better for both palatability and
health. Too much salt will mask the delicate play of garlic and seasonings in
most dishes. You will find, on the whole, that you need much less salt than
usual in these particular recipes; the garlic, whether mild or pungent,
provides a lot of flavor.
PEPPER. Keep a pepper mill by the stove, and use it. Preground
pepper is just sharp, black dust; its flavor does not compare with the freshly
BAY LEAVES. Two kinds are available on your grocery shelves: Turkish
and California. If the recipe calls for a bay leaf, use a whole Turkish leaf
or half of the much stronger California one.
Think of garlic as more than seasoning. It can be at its best and
most interesting when used by the handful. Long, gentle cooking renders the
cloves sweet, mild, and utterly surprising.