Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Garlic: It's Many Forms & Uses

One of the first things people think of when "Garlic" is mentioned bad breath.  That's because garlic can be quite strong and gives off an equally strong odor.  I'm sure that is how garlic became one of the weapons against vampires.  It's strong odor would ward off vampires from intended victims.  To my best recollection, I've never seen an "Italian Vampire" because they could never give up an ingredient that is so prevalent in their food.

But garlic doesn't have to be that strong to help flavor a dish.  Besides, if everyone is having garlic flavored foods, who's to notice any strange odor.  Enough of that for now.  Let's get serious about garlic and all the ways it is used in cooking.

Fresh garlic comes as a bulb with many individual cloves in it.  The bulb has a dry paper-like skin on it and each clove.  Most recipes call for the use of cloves of garlic, from one to many.  The recipe will also call for the way it wants the garlic to be in the dish.  The most popular ways are; pressed, minced, chopped, crusted and sliced.

Before I give you more on "Fresh Garlic" let me mention that there are other ways of buying and using garlic.  You can buy garlic already processed in jars.  You can find whole cloves, chopped and minced as just a few but these are the most available in stores.

Back to fresh garlic cloves and how to use them.  To use a clove of garlic, one must first remove it from  the bulb of garlic.  The easiest way is to take your hand and mash the bulb with it.  Just hard enough to loosen the cloves and then pull one off.  Or the number needed for the recipe.

Each clove is covered with a skin.  Lay the clove on your cutting board and take the side of your "Chef Knife" and mash it with the palm of your hand.  Again, just enough to break it open a little.  Now peel the skin covering off the clove and set it aside.  Repeat process with remaining cloves needed.  Once done, you can proceed to the next step with the garlic.  I'll mention each in the same order as above.

For "Pressed Garlic" you will need a garlic press.  Place the clove in the garlic press and squeeze the handle together to press out the garlic.  The bad thing about this method is that you have to clean the garlic press.  That can be burdensome.  So another way to press garlic is the first mince (technique coming in next paragraphs) it.  Once it is minced, add a little salt and use the side of your chef knife again to crush the garlic.  Use a motion with the knife that will bring the garlic towards you.  Then scrape off the garlic and repeat the process until garlic is more of a paste than little pieces.  This will take practice but is well worth mastering.

For "Minced Garlic" you just need a sharp knife.  Take the clove and put the root part (part that was attached to the bulb) towards your off knife hand.  Using the knife, make a horizontal cut into the clove but not through it.  If clove is large, you might make two cuts.  Now make vertical cuts towards the root end as close as possible through the clove.  Next make perpendicular cuts to the previous cuts.  Again as close as possible.  This should leave you with many tiny pieces of garlic.

For "Chopped Garlic" you can follow what you did for minced only make the cuts further apart to make larger pieces.  You can also just slice the garlic clove and then use the chopping motion of your knife to chop up the garlic.  That moment is holding the knife in one hand with the tip of it on the cutting board.  Putting your other hand over the blade end to keep it on the cutting board as you lift and drop the knife to chop the garlic on the board.

For "Crusted Garlic" just use the side of your chef knife and hit it hard with your off hand palm.  This should mash the garlic in a whole piece but allows all the flavor to come out.

For "Sliced Garlic" just make those perpendicular cuts mentioned above in the minced garlic paragraph without making any other cuts before.  This will give you nice slices.  How thick you make the slices may be indicated in the recipe.  If not, always make them thin slices.

So that should get you started with handling garlic for any recipe you wish to produce.  As with anything, it takes a little practice to become comfortable with what you are doing in the kitchen.  Just remember that it is fun to practice because the reward is some tasty food.

This week's recipes are "Roasted Garlic" and Garlic Roasted Cauliflower" to enjoy.  So "Happy Cooking" until next week.

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