Garlic is one of my favourite recipe additions. I even own a couple of cookbooks dedicated to garlic, including ‘Garlic, Garlic, Garlic’ by Linda and Fred Griffith. Garlic is very versatile: from roasting it to bring out its sweetness to rubbing it raw on bruschetta toasts, it can be used in an endless number of dishes. There are even dessert recipes that use garlic, although they’re a bit extreme for my tastes!
Garlic is closely related to the onion family. It is used around the world for both culinary and medicinal purposes. China is the world’s largest producer of garlic, growing over 20 billion pounds a year, which they export worldwide. Garlic is also grown in Canada and the United States and can often be found at farmer’s markets in the summer. It keeps well in a cool, dry, open place but do not refrigerate or freeze it. I keep mine in a basket in the kitchen so it’s always accessible.
Here are some garlic facts and tips you can use in your kitchen:
To separate a head of garlic into cloves, peel off the papery outer layers and smash the top of the garlic head with the heel of your hand. It should separate, allowing you to pull apart the individual cloves.
To peel the cloves, use the flat side of a large knife to lightly smash the side of the clove. The skin will easily peel away. The fresher the garlic is, the more the skin will stick to the cloves.
To chop garlic, peel the clove. Using a sharp knife, cut into thin slivers and then chop up the slivers.
A microplane grater can be used if you need to mince garlic finely. Just run a peeled clove over the microplane and put the grated garlic into your dish.
Another way to mince garlic is as follows: Put a pinch of salt on a cutting board. Place a peeled garlic clove on its side and smash hard with the side of a large chef’s knife. Use the knife to chop it finely.
Avoid using a garlic press if possible. A lot of people swear they change the taste of garlic. This is debatable but they are definitely a pain to clean. It’s much easier to use a knife or microplane.
Avoid pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar. Compared to fresh garlic, it’s very expensive and will not have the same pungent flavour as fresh. Likewise, don’t use garlic powder or salt – fresh is better!
If you’re following a recipe that calls for garlic powder or garlic salt, you can make the following substitutions: 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder = 1 small fresh garlic clove. 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt = 1 small fresh garlic clove.
Garlic burns very easily which can ruin a dish. Watch it very carefully when sauteeing. If I’m also browning onions, celery, etc. I will add the garlic toward the end.
It’s difficult to get garlic off your breath but chewing on a sprig of parsley can help. There are also parsley oil capsules you can take that will help with garlic breath.
To get garlic smells off your fingers after working with garlic, rub your fingers on something stainless steel, such as the blade of a knife. You can buy stainless steel ‘stones’ that have been marketed specifically for this use but you can save yourself some money by using what you have on hand.
Roasting garlic mellows and sweetens its flavour. It can be used in a number of ways, such as spreading on fresh bread, mixing with mashed potatoes and mixing with mayonnaise to make a delicious spread for sandwiches.
- Whole heads of garlic (as many as you need)
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil OR olive oil per garlic head
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel the outer layer off the garlic heads. Slice the top 1/4 off each head, revealing the cloves. Place them in an oven-proof dish and drizzle each head of garlic with oil.
- Cover the dish with a lid or foil and roast for about 1 hour. Check on after and hour and spoon any juices over the cloves. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the cloves are tender.
- Let cool and squeeze garlic out of the cloves and use as desired.
Bon Appetit and Enjoy!