by Margaret Mendel
Coupon for Valentino’s Italian Restaurant at the end of this article.
What would you think if you heard someone say, “I love the smell of stinky rose cooking?” If you didn’t know they were talking about garlic, you’d think they were nuts. But, “stinky rose” is what farmers affectionately call garlic.
In the past century, the use of garlic has quadrupled, and garlic has become as common a seasoning in food, as salt. It is estimated that today there are over a hundred varieties of garlic. Every year new strains are being developed.
From the average cook’s stand-point there are two basic kinds of garlic – softneck and hardneck garlic. The hardneck varieties have a hard stem that grows from the center, while the softneck varieties have a soft stem in its center. It is the softneck variety that is most commonly found in supermarkets. There are two varieties of softneck garlic (which predominantly come from California) called California Early and California Late. The Early has a bigger bulb, with slightly larger cloves. These two varieties of softneck garlic are the easiest to grow in large quantities, and have the longest shelf life of all the varieties.
Garlic is most flavorful in the first few months after it has been harvested. Since most garlic grown in the United States is harvested during July and August, that makes the late summer and fall prime garlic season.
When buying garlic, look for firm bulbs. If garlic is kept too long it will sprout, become soft and its potency diminishes. Garlic loses its flavor if stored in conditions that are too cool or too moist, therefore it should not be kept in the refrigerator. However, garlic does like to be stored in a cool and dark environment. But freezing garlic is definitely not recommended because this destroys the flavor completely.The stinky rose is a member of the Allium family and is a cousin to the onion, scallion and shallot and, like its relatives, the pungent fumes have the ability to sting the eyes. Powerful sulfur compounds contained in the fibrous tissue cause this. When the fleshy tissue of the garlic is broken and exposed to the air, these sulfur compounds are released.
Garlic has many personalities and changes its characteristics depending on how it is managed in the cooking process. The finer the garlic is chopped or mashed, the more intense the sulfur compounds act on each other, thereby producing a stronger flavor and odor. Raw garlic has a hot and quite assertive taste. However, a head of garlic that has been wrapped in aluminum foil then roasted in the oven will have a sweet caramel taste. And cloves of garlic cooked in milk produce a mild and slightly sweet flavor.
If harvested while immature the leaves and flowers of garlic are edible. In some parts of the world the young flower stocks of the hardneck and elephant varieties are used like asparagus in stir-fries. In Korea, immature whole heads of garlic are cooked unpeeled with the tender, papery skins intact.
Garlic is not only a tasty flavoring for food, but for thousands of years garlic has been thought to contain healing properties. The ancient Egyptians and early Greek and Roman civilizations regularly used garlic to heal the sick and shore up the stamina of the weak. Today, researchers are studying the effectiveness of garlic in treating a wide range of health issues such as high blood pressure, cancer, impotence, high cholesterol and a score of other conditions. Some research suggests that garlic may ward off some forms of cancer, and many studies agree that there is a wide range of health benefits contained in the garlic, including reducing cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, thinning the blood and reducing the threat of heart attack.
For the garlic lover there are many garlic festivals held in the USA and worldwide. Italy, The Isle of Wight, Canada, France and Turkey also have garlic festivals. In Ontario you can get a recipe for a garlic cough syrup and in England you can taste garlic beer. The Gilroy Garlic Festival in California is considered the granddaddy of U.S. garlic festivals. Over the years the Gilroy event has hosted over three million visitors with profits going to charitable organizations. The festival has collected millions of dollars for local charities and last year 150 non-profit organizations collected more than $500,000 raised by the festival.
This year Gilroy will host its 33rd annual garlic festival on July 29, 30 and 31. There will be entertainment, tons of taste treats, and the festival’s cook-off stage has undergone a dramatic overhaul and promises to be bigger than ever. This is a festival you will not want to miss. It is a time when you can taste garlic infused fudge or watch cooks in a Garlic Showdown. The garlic festival is a fun time for the entire family.
ROASTED GARLIC PATE
4 large head garlic (not cloves, but full heads of garlic)
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Kosher salt (optional) and freshly ground white pepper
2 – 3 drops Tabasco sauce
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Keeping the heads of the garlic whole, slice off the very top portion of the garlic heads to slightly expose the flesh of the garlic cloves. Gently remove the papery outer skin from sides of heads. Place the garlic bulb into a small ovenproof dish just large enough to hold all four heads of garlic. Spoon 1 Tablespoon oil over each head, drizzle1 teaspoon water over each and cover dish tightly with foil. Bake garlic for 1-1/4 hours. Uncover, baste with any remaining pan juices, and bake uncovered until golden, about 15 minutes longer.
Let garlic cool, and then squeeze the flesh from each clove into a shallow bowl. Add any remaining pan juices. Using a fork, thoroughly mash garlic. Blend mixture with softened butter and season with salt, white pepper and Tabasco. Spoon into a small serving dish and wrap thoroughly. Can be stored in refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature when ready to eat the pate, serve with crusty bread or warm focaccia.
CHICKEN WITH 4O CLOVES OF GARLIC
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
2 large celery stalks, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 frying chicken, 3 1/4 to 4 pounds
40 plump garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup mixed fresh chopped herbs, such as tarragon, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, rosemary.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine onions and celery in a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven, preferably cast-iron. Rub salt and pepper inside chicken and place bird on top of onion-celery mixture. Scatter garlic gloves all around the chicken. Pour olive oil, and then the white wine over chicken and garlic and season generously with more salt and pepper. Place 2 tablespoons herbs inside chicken. Sprinkle remaining herbs over chicken and garlic cloves. Cover pot tightly, first with heavy foil, then with the lid.
Roast chicken for 1-1/2 hours. Chicken should be fork-tender, but it will not be browned. Carve chicken into quarters. Serve with garlic cloves and pan juices. The garlic will be buttery tender. Serve this with freshly toasted bread croutons, squeezing the garlic right from its skin onto the toast.
GARLIC BBQ SAUCE
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and minced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Cup catsup
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup strong black coffee
1/3 cup black molasses
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Tabasco to taste (Add this after all the cooking has been completed.)
Heat oil in a heavy skillet and add the onions and jalapeno peppers. Cook until the onions are lightly browned. Then add the garlic, and cook for a few more minutes, stirring. Then add the sugar and stir to dissolve, and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until everything is mixed well. Put a lid on the skillet and cook over very low heat for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring often to keep the mixture from sticking. Cool sauce and strain. Puree the solids and return to the sauce. Stir well. Add the Tabasco to taste.
Who does garlic better than an Italian restaurant like Reedley’s own Valentino’s–their specials are listed on their Facebook page. Check out this special coupon for KRL’s readers!