Ok – so I stole the heading from my favorite move “Immortal Beloved” on the life of my beloved composer Beethoven. Only because when it comes to flavors in cooking – garlic is my forever loved ingredient. As you read my blogs, you will find it in almost everything. It can have strong notes that only a few can tolerate, subtle notes for others and notes that sing to all – not unlike the music of Beethoven.
The flavor benefits aside – Garlic also has many health benefits such as for reducing LDL-C and triglycerides (as part of a healthy diet can help to reduce cholesterol), can reduce risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy and has some cancer-preventive effect (stomach and prostate).
With all of that – I think we can overlook the occasional garlic breath, perfume (on hands from handling, or streaming through the pores..) and embrace this wonderful ingredient! Next time you are on a date and he/she has garlic breath – don’t turn your head – instead, think – wow this person is going to live a long time! Of course that could be good/bad depending on your situation.. ; )
Lets move on to Buying Garlic:
The absolute best way is to buy it whole – i.e. – with head, peel, et-al in tact. You want to find a head that is white, compact and heavy for its size. When you press your fingers against the individual cloves, they should be hard, not spongy or have brown spots/missing cloves or sprouting green. The covering should be crisp, if shriveled or missing – move on to the next head. They can be stored at room temp for a couple of weeks. Peel as you go. that way you will achieve optimal freshness and flavor.
If cooking for a party of 25 or more with multiple dishes – then you may want to consider the alternative of Pre-Peeled garlic available at your grocery store. Make sure it is freshly peeled or pass and just buck it up and do it yourself. How can you tell if it is bad?
1.) How much liquid do you see? Do the individual cloves appear slimy or slightly glossy?
2.) Do you see any that look like they have some soft spots developing (more of an opaque color)?
3.) Is it the last one on the shelf?
Shake it up and try to get a good sense of the quality. After peeling your own fresh garlic, you will have a good sense of what fresh garlic looks like. If the container looks like it contains fresh garlic and you are going to use within 2 days – then go ahead and take this short cut. If not – then bite the bullet – buy the fresh heads and peel yourself or gather a few large rocks, sanitize them, and enlist some kids to do some garlic smashing in the back yard. You can take a few days to peel a few heads if you wish.. your co-workers will wonder what that wonderful lunch your brought in is.. but it will be your little secret its just your pores exuding garlic.
For your spice rack I recommend having the following on hand:
Granulated Garlic – looks like sand
Powdered Garlic – looks like powdered sugar
Garlic juice/spray – mmmmm
That is all I am going to say on buying garlic. There is no other way that I would recommend for the best outcome of your dishes.
Oh wait – there may be a few of you who ask – what about:
Chopped garlic in a jar
Minced garlic in a jar
Pureed garlic in a jar
Whatever garlic in a jar
The best thing I can think of for these items – save the juice. As for the garlic salt – its not bad – it is either granulated garlic or powdered garlic mixed with salt. The reason I don’t prefer having it around is that you cannot control the salt. You may want more garlic flavor, but then you end up with something too salty.
As for the others, by all means, keep a jar in the fridge. They come in handy in a pinch when you run out of fresh garlic when cooking for your family. They can also be good for marinades. They don’t hold a lot of nutritional or health benefits – but I am not one to say don’t use it if that is all you have. You will probably find one jar in my fridge because they do have their uses at times. A small jar can last me over a year. But the juice does come in more handy than the garlic bits themselves.
But believe me – and ask my aunt whom I converted a few years ago from jars – Fresh garlic is just better, better for you and better tasting. Plus for day to day cooking it really isn’t much work at all.
Peeling Garlic – Not such a challenge after-all and well worth the effort
Granted – it is messy. Get out that trash can and bring out that large cutting board.
Over the trash can – hold the head in one hand and start to loosen and remove the very outer layers of the peel. If doing the whole head – remove as much as you can. If you just want a clove or two – remove just enough to outline the cloves you want.
Step 1: Remove the cloves you want (whole head instructions will be below) and place them on the cutting board
Step 2: Get an object with a flat surface (can be the heel of your hand, flat side of a meat tenderizer, flat side of a chefs knife), and press down on the clove. If you don’t care about having whole garlic (going to have minced/chopped) – then by all means smash that sucker.
Step 3: The skin will split open, repeat step 2 until all cloves are split
Step 4: Remove the skin
That is it. If you use your hand to split it open – you will have hands that smell wonderfully good. If you prefer not to have the natural perfume of garlic – put on the non-powdered sterile rubber gloves your Dr puts on before an exam. You can find these in bulk at any pharmacy. I also use them for hot peppers.
Heads of Garlic:
If doing a LOT of garlic and need to break apart an entire head:
Step 1: Please the head on a cutting board with top facing up. Take a rubber mallet (or something similar) – and tap the top with a little bit of force – and the cloves will fall apart.
Step 2: If just one heat – then follow the instruction above for individual cloves. If multiple heads of garlic – cover the garlic with a kitchen towel, find another cutting board (or wood you don’t care about) of equal or larger size place on top. Get a rubber mallet and start tapping the board with more force than an individual clove around the perimeter and continue inward until the entire surface has been tapped.
Step 3: Lift, remove the cloves that have been split open – repeat step 2 until all cloves are split
Step 4: Remove the cloves from the skin – discard the skin.
Roasted Garlic: Takes a while – but it is mostly hands off
Preheat oven to 425
- Peel the outer skins of the garlic off the head (as described in the peeling garlic section)
- Slice off about a 1/4 inch off the top of the head to expose the top of the cloves
- Place on a baking dish (or garlic baker) and drizzle with about 2 TBS of virgin or extra-virgin olive oil. Cover (with the cover of your baker or with tin foil)
- Roast for about 45 minutes or until the cloves are mushy; Remove from the oven
- Let cool to touch
- Squeeze the indivifual garlic out of the skins (may need to break apart the head if it doesn’t already fall apart)
This is great for so many applications. Brushing on bread rounds before toasting to add that garlic flavor for a bruchetta or crustini or just plain toast rounds, before adding to potatoes (mashed or baked), adding to dressings, adding to butter for topping steaks, etc..
- Heat a skillet with olive oil over med heat.
- Add the garlic (minced, sliced, chopped or smashed)
- Saute, turning often for about 2 minutes until soft.
** Notes when adding to other ingredients please keep an eye on the garlic. It will burn quickly over too high of heat. And can quickly go from just right to over done. Brown or over done garlic is bitter tasting.
I used to put the garlic in at the same time as the onions, but found that just never really worked because onions take longer than garlic. Think of garlic as a fresh herb. When using fresh herbs, you always put them in towards the END of cooking.. Garlic is similar, when Sauteing.. However if adding with liquid – they can go in right away.
Fried Garlic/Garlic Chips:
Careful on this one – I still don’t get it right all the time because I get distracted by something else.
- Same as sauteing garlic. Heat the oil over med to med-high heat.
- Add the Sliced garlic (not too thinly sliced)
- Watch closely and don’t leave the pan alone at all
- Using a slotted spoon – turn over when it STARTS to brown, then remove within 10 seconds after the flip
This method will help to take some of the sting out of the garlic
- Using a small sauce pan, add water and salt. Heat to a low boil or simmer
- Add the whole garlic and simmer until garlic is soft
- Remove and plunge into an ice bath (ice cubes and cold water)
- Use as you would in any recipe
Pop that sucker in your mouth (or favorite recipe), Get out that parsley and grab your honey.
THROW IT AWAY – start again
A great question. When is the right time to add garlic? Well – as with all of cooking – it depends.
Powdered/granulated garlic is typically added to ground ingredients like meat loaf, meatballs, breading. This is added with all of the other ingredients right at the beginning. It can also be added at the beginning of making a tomato sauce. The earlier the better to allow the garlic to infuse with the other ingredients.
Fresh garlic is tricky. If you are doing a saute and garlic is the only ingredient you need to sautee – then the garlic goes it first to the semi-hot oil not more than 30 seconds prior to adding the other ingredients. The rule of thumb is – once you smell it – its good to go.
If Sauteeing garlic with other ingredients – let the other ingredients (such as onions) cook until almost done – then add the garlic about 30 – 60 seconds prior to adding the other ingredients.
If using liquid – garlic can go in right away.
NOTE: If you start to see the garlic browning, and you are not yet ready for the other ingredients – add a little water or other liquid called for in the recipe to prevent the garlic from burning. Water won’t hurt – it will evaporate fast – so keep an eye on it. The other option is to remove it from the pan – NOT just the pan from the heat as the pan will continue to cook the garlic.
Tips to reduce that garlic odor:
Wash hands with salt and lemon juice, rinsing with cold water.
Chew on fresh parsley
I did not list any specific recipes for garlic as just about every recipe and idea I have on this site includes garlic as well as 95% of every non-baking recipe in the world contains garlic.
Fear NOT this wonderful fruit. Embrace it and Prosper.