Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

My heart jumps in my chest when I discover I’m low on garlic. It rarely ever happens because I usually plop a bulb into my shopping cart, just in case, when I’m in the produce section. I guess I’ve been doing that a lot lately judging by the evidence below.

Let's talk about garlic | Grabbing the Gusto

Let’s talk about garlic | Grabbing the Gusto

While making dinner the other night, a few thoughts about garlic went floating through my head.

I love chopping garlic. For me it’s kind of a zen thing. Like I imagine it is for Paulie in the movie Goodfellas – the master of shaving garlic with a razor, a must-see video.

If you’re not into chopping or shaving garlic, you could use a microplane (rasp) to grate it instead. I admit, because I’m a chopper, my fingers do end up smelling like garlic but I don’t really care. Maybe that’s weird. I think it’s a sign of a good meal. And that’s why I don’t own a garlic press.

Alton Brown has a good name for garlic presses and other single-use kitchen tools: unitaskers. If you have a small kitchen with limited storage space, like I have for most of my life, then you can’t take up precious room with tools that have only one purpose. Unless, they’re for special dishes that are part of your soul – like I imagine a springerle rolling pin is for some people, or a gnocchi board or a pizzelle maker.

Garlic has its season. I love it when it’s juicy, snowy white, and almost sweet smelling. But sometimes the garlic in the supermarket looks sad. And the older it is, the more likely it will have a green germ sprouting from the center.

Remove the green germ from garlic before using. | Grabbing the Gusto

Remove the green germ from garlic before using. | Grabbing the Gusto

Long ago, someone, perhaps Jacques Pépin, told me to remove the germ and I’ve been doing it ever since. The germ is bitter, not a taste you want in your food.

Another thing about garlic: chopping it activates the allicin compound – the healthy component of garlic. Some say that letting chopped garlic sit for ten minutes before using it will increase allicin’s effect. Some say it won’t. Who knows, there’s been lots of disagreement over the centuries about garlic’s benefits.

Many recipes tell you to add garlic to the sauté pan along with all the other vegetables you’re sautéing. I don’t do it that way because there’s a good chance the garlic might overcook if it spends too much time on the bottom of the pan or not get cooked enough if it spends all its time mixed in the vegetables. Once the vegetables are about a minute away from being done, I make a space in the middle of the pan, add the garlic, spread it out into one layer, add a bit of fat (oil or butter) on top of the garlic and let it cook for about a minute on low heat. Once the garlic just starts to change color to a hint of golden, I mix it into the other ingredients. That’s just my way.

Black garlic from Obis One | Grabbing the Gusto

Black garlic from Obis One | Grabbing the Gusto

I’ve been using black garlic from Obis One in some of the recipes I’ve posted lately, including the One-Pot Chicken and Mushrooms where I wrote:

“How does garlic go from white to black? Obis One explains: “Heat, humidity and vacuum create an environment that lets the natural sugars and enzymes within the garlic do its own thing.” This natural enzyme process sweetens, blackens and softens the garlic cloves, not mooshy soft, but more like dried fruit. The nutritional bonus: black garlic has twice the antioxidants of raw garlic without the garlic breath consequences.”

Black garlic lasts a long time on the counter, at least six months, so it’s worth giving a try. Saveur loves it enough to put it into their Saveur 100 Gift Bag.

What garlic habits or factoids do you have to share? I’m always willing to up my garlic game.

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