Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Wonderful World of Garlic

So we've known for a while that garlic's good for us. Those Mediterranean folks were way ahead of the curve on that one - garlic is such an integral component of Italian, French, Spanish (I think), and Middle Eastern cooking.

Garlic adds some definite yumminess to any recipe, whether it be eggplant parm, vodka tomato sauce, American chop suey, or Jamaican spinach. Too much, however, and people are going to start thinking you're trying to stave off vampires (and everyone else for that matter).

Garlic Curiosity

When I lived in St Louis, there was a Middle Eastern restaurant (I don't remember what kind) that had a garlic festival every year. I never attended, but one of the things that stood out on the advertisement is that they serve garlic juice. Yes, you read that right, garlic juice (and I don't mean this kind of garlic juice, which you use to spray on food). Now, this sounds about as appealing to me as, say, parsley juice or olive oil ice cream.

But wait!

I've tried olive oil ice cream. And it's not half bad. It definitely tasted like olive oil, but it was also sweet, so it tasted like ice cream. I didn't get a full scoop, just one of those tasters (Toscanini's), but it was very interesting to try.

I imagine that they don't make garlic juice taste like you just squeezed out garlic into a glass. They must add something to balance it out a little. I'm having trouble finding info about it online, however.

What's the strangest garlicky food you've come across?

The Debate

So the debate comes in, fresh garlic or bottled garlic? I always use bottled, minced garlic because it's easier (and a hell of a lot faster). I don't mind getting the smell of garlic on my hands, but it's kind of a pain to peel it, then chop it, then clean the cutting board afterwards.

Well, the part of garlic that gives it its characteristic smell is called Allicin. It's widely promoted for anti-bacterial properties, fighting infections and preventing bacteria-related food poisoning (ref: WebMD). But Allicin is fragile and disappears quickly and crushed fresh garlic is more stable and has higher levels of Allicin than preserved versions. Garlic stored in water (which is what I use) had Allicin levels decrease by half in about six days (six days?! I keep minced garlic around for months!), and in vegetable oil within the span of a few hours.

That's not to say that preserved garlic doesn't still have beneficial properties, because it does. It's just not as good as the fresh stuff.

Cheesy garlic bread

Yesterday for lunch I had some leftover cauliflower leek soup. But I wanted some kind of healthy carb to go with it, so I decided to make some toast. But just plain toast isn't so interested, even considering that the 7-grain date bread I eat is very yummy. So I made some cheesy garlic bread.

2-4T olive oil
t minced garlic
asiago cheese (enough that the cheese is coated in the oil)
salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients in a small bowl and lay in a thin layer over a slice of bread. Bake at 400 until warm and cheese is slightly melty. In the past, I've made just plain cheese bread, and the heat of the oven bakes the cheese until it's hard and crunchy in no time at all. This version with the added olive oil keeps the cheese moist and yummy, not drying it out. The dates in the bread also gave it a slightly sweet flavor to go with the salty cheese.


Tami said...

I had no idea! Thank you very much, that was extremely informative.

Interestingly enough, I use fresh garlic because the jars of preserved garlic have a MUCH stronger smell/flavor that I'm not a fan of. The fresh stuff seems to add the good without the bad. =]

JavaChick said...

I always use fresh garlic. I don't really find it all that time consuming - yes, I can see that it would take longer than scooping out of a jar, but I'm willing to take a few minutes. I vaguely recall experiencing the bottled stuff at some point, thinking it just didn't taste/smell the same, and deciding it wasn't worth it.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I should try using fresh garlic for a while, just to see if I notice a difference.

I did buy some little baby garlic bulbs and put it in a container with olive oil, so I have garlic oil. Definitely good stuff.

Romny said...

I love the fresh stuff. About an hour and a half south of me is a town that claims to be the "Garlic Capital of the World". Gilroy, CA. You can smell the garlic 10 minutes before you actually approach the city. Every year they have a garlic festival and sell everything garlic....even garlic ice cream!

Barbara Gavin said...

I am a real snob about garlic and would no more use the bottled stuff than I would use canned soup as a basis for a sauce. Like I said, a real snob!

My husband once said to me - "Everything you cooks starts with garlic and olive oil in your cast iron frying pan." Well, yeah!

Gopi said...

One night, two years ago, I figured I needed to eat garlic more regularly. So I went out and bought some cloves. Then I peeled one, crushed it a bit, popped it in my mouth...and ended up being doubled over in pain for the next 15 minutes! I might have sobbed for a brief period but I am not admitting to that. That was my first and last experiment with eating garlic on an empty stomach :)

Now I simply dab a bit of garlic and ginger paste onto my fish and other meats. My food tastes much better and my insides feel so clean! If I had wings, I would flutter around in joy!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Gopi, LMAO! That's kind of akin to people going in to a Japanese restaurant and popping a bunch of wasabi in their mouth. I imagine that would be quite...um...strong, for lack of a stronger word...

Gopi said...

Actually I have a wasabi story too :) You probably don't remember it but I def told you this story when we went over to Koreana.

Anyway, remember the Marche in the Back Bay that abruptly closed? Well, we had our 2003 company Christmas party there (a couple of weeks before I moved to Stearns road really). To start the dinner festivities, I got myself some sushi and the waitress brought over some wasabi. I thot the wasabi must be like a Pudina Chutney (a south Indian side-dish) and popped a finger full in my mouth and...time just stood still, man! Nobody saw me put that wasabi in my mouth. Otherwise they would have marvelled at how I kept a straight face like that while, y'know, "recovering" from the ongoing turmoil in my head. I broke out in peals of sweat, alright. Whew! All I can say is that I have very pleasant memories of the cold beer I had afterwards.