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Glorious Garlic

Glorious Garlic

The pungent bulb adds depth, flavor, and interest to any number of dishes.

By FamilyTime

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It's the flavor that so many of us adore in Italian, Chinese, Indian, Greek, Thai, Mexican, and so many other cuisines. It's touted as a health benefit and, if you dabble in the supernatural, believed to ward off vampires!

Nearly everyone loves garlic but not everyone knows how to make the most of the edible bulb.

The Goods on Garlic
Garlic is a small bulb consisting of 12 to 16 individual cloves. All are separately wrapped in a papery white, ivory, or purplish skin that also holds the bulb together. Once harvested, garlic, like its close cousin the onion, keeps at room temperature for several months.

While garlic is available all year long in produce shops and supermarkets, freshly harvested garlic is best. It's easy to grow in most home gardens and once you begin cultivating your own, you will be pleased with the flavor of your crop.

Smallish white heads of American garlic are available from mid summer onward and small purplish Mexican and Italian garlic is in season in the springtime.

However, because garlic is in such demand and so easy to grow, most kinds of garlic are easy to find all year long.

Elephant garlic is a separate type of bulb, more closely related to leeks than to ordinary garlic. It can be the size of a small orange and its cloves are far milder tasting than those of true garlic.

Buying and Storing Garlic
Choose dry, smooth heads of garlic. Avoid any that feel soft or are so dry they crackle when pressed.

Store whole bulbs at room temperature for up to two months. Don't seal them in a plastic bag or canister but let them sit in an open bowl or garlic storage jar with good air circulation.

Do not refrigerate fresh garlic bulbs. The humidity in the refrigerator encourages sprouting.

Cooking with Garlic
A recipe may specify the number of garlic cloves or it may call for a measured amount of chopped, diced, or sliced garlic.

In either case, free the clove from the bulb (or head) only when you need it. Peel the papery skin from the clove and discard it. To make this easy, gently crush the clove with the flat side of a wide knife. The skin will separate from the clove.

Another trick is to roll the clove(s) in a rubber mat to loosen the skins, or blanch the cloves in boiling water for 60 seconds, drain, and peel.

If the garlic clove has sprouted, cut out the bright green sprout.

It's important to follow a recipe's instructions on how the garlic should be prepared. Chopped or minced raw garlic is stronger tasting than cooked garlic. Crushing garlic releases more aromatic oils than chopping it.

When you sauté garlic in hot oil, take care not to scorch it or it will be bitter. Sauté it only until golden over low heat. If the recipe calls for sautéing onions and garlic at the start of a recipe (and many do), add the garlic to the pan after the onions have begun to soften. This prevents the garlic from burning.

Roasting Garlic
Mild, sweet-tasting roasted garlic is a great favorite spread on bread or added to dips, mashed potatoes, and other preparations.

To roast a whole head, remove as much of the papery outer skin as you can without allowing the cloves to separate. Slice off the top of the head to expose the cloves.

Rub the garlic bulb with olive oil and wrap it in foil or nestle it in a small, covered casserole. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes at 400°F. until the cloves are soft.

Let the garlic bulb cool slightly and then squeeze the garlic pulp from the individual cloves. Discard the skins.

Other Forms of Garlic
Garlic powder and garlic flakes are never as good as fresh garlic. They are a reasonable substitute, however, with about a quarter teaspoon of powdered garlic or garlic flakes equaling approximately one medium-sized clove.

Garlic salt is available, too. If you use it compensate for the salt by reducing the amount in the rest of the dish. A half teaspoon of garlic salt can be used in place of a whole clove.

Peeled garlic packed in oil seems like a great solution for anyone who does not like to prepare fresh garlic cloves. If you like it, use it, but it may be bitter.

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Tagged With: garlic, health, cooking, seasoning, pungent

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