ISSUE 14: GARLIC
"He used to slice it so thin that it used to liquify in the pan with just a little oil..."
Garlic is never not in my kitchen. Every time I grocery shop at least a couple bulbs end up in my basket. When a recipe calls for two cloves I add five. When I slice it I feel like Paulie in Goodfellas except I can never slice it as razor-thin no matter how many times I try. I wanted to do an issue on garlic because it’s an ingredient I take for granted; it’s never hard to find, it’s always affordable, and keeps for what feels like forever. When I first starting cooking for myself I burned a lot of garlic which got me into the habit of always having extra bulbs around. I’ve been watching a lot of Golden Girls lately and their kitchen has a couple decorative garlic braids, which is most definitely a vibe. Garlic confit remains the only TikTok food trend I truly endorse. And who doesn’t love garlic bread? Garlic knots? Garlic Naan? Heaven! You know who famously doesn’t like garlic? Queen Elizabeth. *Cue Oprah reaction* So if you thought you didn’t like garlic, grab some gum or mints or whatever and get ready to roll into Garlictown.
There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck has a single row of cloves whereas softneck has rows of concentric cloves. Softneck garlic is most common and what you usually find at the grocery store: their tightly wrapped skin makes them ideal for storage. Most garlic in America is shipped from California or China and loses flavor in transit before landing in supermarket bins. Unless you are buying garlic in mid-summer through early fall, those bulbs are probably coming out of storage.
Bulbs with frayed or loose outer skins may be dried out or moldy. Look for garlic bulbs that are heavy and firm to the touch with no brown spots or dampness. Check for mold or mildew and avoid sprouting bulbs. If the bulb has sprouted you can still use it, just cut out the green sprout from the clove. (Keep in mind its flavor may be more intense or “hot”) Intact garlic has no odor so if the bulb is smelly, pass on it.
You don’t need anything more than a knife to peel, chop, and mince your garlic but tools are out there. Aside from the classic garlic press there are garlic peeling tubes and garlic rockers, if you’re looking to get wild at Bed Bath & Beyond sometime soon. I always just use the side of my knife and smash each clove and/or cut off a tiny tip at each end. Some people put the cloves in a jar, close the lid and shake the skins off. Maybe you like garlicky fingertips and wanna peel them by hand. Whatever floats!
Hero of the newsletter and author of Eating on the Wild Side Jo Robinson has a hot tip for getting all of garlic’s nutritional goodness: “Chop, mince, slice, or mash the garlic and then keep it away from the heat for ten minutes. During this time, the maximum amount of allicin is created so the heat-sensitive enzyme is no longer needed. You can saute, bake, or fry the garlic and still get all its medicine.” She also recommends hard neck garlic as it is more closely related to wild garlic.
Garlic can be enjoyed roasted, sauteed, fried, pickled, and even raw. If I am heating up oil in a pan, garlic is almost always sure to follow. Garlicky greens is one of my go-to side dishes, especially if spigariello is available. Thirty cloves of garlic go into Julia Child's garlic mashed potatoes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1 which sounds psycho but also just right. For some, the first step of Pan con Tomate is rubbing the bread with half a clove of fresh garlic. Chimichurri and zhug are both delicious marriages of herbs and garlic that never miss.
When garlic is not enjoyed as a seasoning, it can also be enjoyed as a vegetable or an appetizer. Sohla El-Waylly shows us how to make Toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce in this video from Serious Eats which also reminds me of the garlic whip I sampled this summer at a farmer’s market in Asbury Park, NJ. On a recent trip to Alimentari Flaneur I bought a couple heads of black garlic that I schmeared on a She Wolf Baguette for an afternoon snack. Pickled garlic can be found as part of a Persian New Year spread (Seer-Torshi) and it is also a beloved Korean banchan dish (Manul changachi).
Though I can’t recall a time when I was out of garlic or refused to just go out and get more, Real Simple says you can use these substitutions if you are out of bulbs:
A medium-size clove of fresh garlic is the equivalent of
1/2 teaspoon garlic flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
And as far as the already-minced, pre-peeled stuff? Remember what Anthony Bourdain said: “Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.”
Even though I have definitely kept bulbs longer, the internet suggests keeping intact garlic bulbs for up to two months. Once broken, cloves will keep for about a week. Light and moisture are garlic’s worst enemies, as they both cause mold to grow.
An ideal garlic storage situation would be inside an open paper bag in a dry, dark pantry with good airflow. I usually keep mine in a hanging wire metal rack in my kitchen or in a bowl on the counter. If you have some money to burn and a tchtchoke habit garlic keepers are a thing. Peeled garlic cloves should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or bag but not in the crisper drawer, where it will quickly sprout. Don't store garlic bulbs in plastic bags of any kind: plastic prevents air circulation and traps moisture. Keep garlic away from heat generating appliances.
If you find yourself with a lot of fresh garlic that you don’t want to waste peel and mince it into a paste to freeze. You can also freeze whole cloves and whole bulbs but they will be less firm once they thaw. I’ve never had garlic around long enough to merit freezing but having some of the paste frozen and at the ready seems useful.
There are two kinds of garlic, hardneck and softneck; softneck garlic is what you’ll find at the grocery store. Garlic is most often used as a seasoning but can also be enjoyed roasted, pickled, and raw. What we call the garlic "head" is actually the swollen bases of the plant's leaves. Look for heavy and firm bulbs with no brown spots or dampness. Garlic stores well, can be frozen.
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