For a small vegetable, garlic (Allium sativum) sure has a big, and well deserved, reputation. And although garlic may not always bring good luck, protect against evil, or ward off vampires, characteristics to which it has been assigned folklorically, it is guaranteed to transform any meal into a bold, aromatic, and healthy culinary experience. Garlic is a member of the Lily family and is a cousin to onions, leeks and chives.
Garlic is arranged in a head, called a "bulb," which averages about 2 inches in height and diameter and consists of numerous small separate cloves. Both the cloves and the entire bulb are encased in paper-like sheathes that can be white, off-white, or have a pink/purple hue. Although garlic cloves have a firm texture, they can be easily cut or crushed. The taste of garlic is like no other—it hits the palate with a hot pungency that is shadowed by a very subtle background sweetness.
Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Ancient Egyptians seem to have been the first to cultivate this plant that played an important role in their culture.
Garlic was not only bestowed with sacred qualities and placed in the tomb of Pharaohs, but it was given to the slaves that built the Pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, civilizations whose athletes ate garlic before sporting events and whose soldiers consumed it before going off to war.
Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes.
Throughout the millennia, garlic has been a beloved plant in many cultures for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Over the last few years, it has gained unprecedented popularity since researchers have been scientifically validating its numerous health benefits.
Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from exposure to heat and sunlight. This will help maintain its maximum freshness and help prevent sprouting, which reduces its flavor and causes excess waste. It is not necessary to refrigerate garlic. Some people freeze peeled garlic; however, this process reduces its flavor profile and changes its texture.
Depending upon its age and variety, whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh for about a month if stored properly. Inspect the bulb frequently and remove any cloves that appear to be dried out or moldy. Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)
This is a noble and sustaining soup found throughout Spain, especially in Castilla-La Mancha. Despite regional variations, the main ingredients of this soup are always the same: garlic, eggs, bread and paprika. (from Moro the Cookbook) Yum!
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4-5 large garlic bulbs, broken into cloves with skin kept on
- 100g cooking chorizo, cut into little pieces
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- ½ tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 4 eggs
- 8 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread, toasted and torn into rough pieces
- Salt and black pepper
1 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the skins are golden brown and the flesh is soft. Remove with a slotted spoon.
2 When slightly cool, squeeze out the sweet garlic flesh by hand (discarding the skins), puree and set aside.
3 Meanwhile, add the chorizo to the pan and fry until crisp and caramelised.
4 Add the thyme, fry for a few seconds, then add the pureed garlic. Stir well, add the paprika and pour on the chicken stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and season to taste.
5 About 2 minutes before serving, poach the eggs in the soup and add the toasted bread. Taste once more and serve immediately.
This is a great recipe for an authentic Indian make-at-home naan, a soft Indian flatbread. Try serving it with a light brushing of ghee or butter. If you don’t have a baking stone, a cast-iron skillet can do the job. Preheat the skillet on the stove top then put it in the oven, bottom side up for the naan to cook upon. Keep in mind that naan baked in a conventional oven puffs up more than naan baked in the traditional tandoor.
From the Food Republic
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 cup warm water, about 110 degrees Farenheit
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup ghee or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- In a glass measuring cup, combine the yeast and sugar. Add the water and stir well. Let rest until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, eggs, yogurt, and 1/4 cup ghee or oil. Mix together with your fingers until a smooth dough forms, working in a small amount of additional flour if needed. Knead for 3 minutes.
- Oil a small bowl with the remaining 1 teaspoon ghee or oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Place a baking stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 400ºF. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and gently roll into balls. Gently roll each ball into a 6-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.
- Brush each circle with ghee or vegetable oil (about 2 teaspoons total) and top evenly with 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro and 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Gently press the cilantro and garlic into the dough so they adhere.
- Bake dough on the baking stone in batches until just golden brown and puffed, 8 to 10 minutes. You should be able to bake two naan at a time on an average size baking stone. Serve immediately.
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
- 8 small to medium red potatoes, cubed
- 2-3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- 1 dash cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Mix olive oil and garlic in a bowl
- Drop in cubed potatoes and coat in garlic-olive oil mixture
- Add salt and pepper, and dash of cayenne pepper
- Spread potatoes out evenly on baking dish or cookie sheet
- Roast for 25-30 minutes or until fork-tender
- Finish under the broiler for crispiness, about 4 minutes