This morning, I stepped off my front porch into the muck that, two months from now, will be my herb garden.
From a distance, it doesn't look beautiful. Several feet of ice and snow piled on for the better part of three months didn't blanket the garden; it smothered every living thing, leaving behind broken foliage, blackened patches of exposed soil, and thousands of rotted acorns rejected by the squirrels.
Nothing appealing. Or so I thought.
On closer inspection, I found a few things of beauty. Whisper thin tips of chives. A strawberry plant on the edge of the path that survived, miraculously, the constant stabbing of snow shovels.
And garlic! Real, honest-to-goodness new shoots from the seed garlic I planted and forgot three summers ago. I must have garlic heads the size of boulders by now.
Judging by the number of times I've featured it (four), and the number and variety of recipes I've posted on The Perfect Pantry that wouldn't be perfect without garlic (dozens), I've got the hang of garlic now.
Though the ancient Egyptians venerated garlic, Americans did not. Up until World War II, we didn't really understand it. Before then, garlic was associated in a derogatory way with the ethnic foods found in working-class immigrant neighborhoods; in diner slang, garlic was Bronx vanilla or Italian perfume.
As our post-war world view broadened, so did our palates. Then, along came Julia Child, who taught us all to be French cooks, and cooking without garlic becameunthinkable. (Who hasn't made chicken with forty cloves of garlic, or garlic mashed potatoes?)
Today, garlic is so popular that it has its own festival. Check the Gilroy Garlic Festival site for this year's dates. You'll enjoy cook-offs, eat-offs, and garlicky food everywhere, so don't forget the cure for garlic breath.
I have a soft spot in my heart for garlic, because this recipe for garlic chicken on skewers launched me on a twenty-year food writing career. It's still my very favorite Middle Eastern recipe, among many from all around the Mediterranean rim that we've shared in The Perfect Pantry:
- Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika
- Oven-baked tortilla Española
- Tuna Nicoise-ish
- Tunisian fish ball tagine
- Vegetable paella with garlic sauce
- Baked cherry tomatoes
- Leek moussaka
- Salmon, asparagus and lemon pasta
- Moroccan carrot salad
- Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce
- Spaghetti with basil pesto, tomatoes and olives
Almost every stir-fry recipe I've posted here starts with garlic:
- Stir-fried garlic lettuce
- Stir-fried corn and red pepper with ginger and garlic
- Garlic eggplant
- Beef and broccoli stir-fry
- Tofu and green bean stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce
- Spicy green beans with ginger and garlic
- Sesame shrimp fried rice with broccoli slaw
And there's no part of the culinary world where garlic doesn't play an important role. We couldn't make any of these dishes from India, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico and the United States without garlic:
- Salmon tikka
- Barbecue sauce
- Saag aloo (potatoes with spiced spinach)
- Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew)
- Half-sour dill pickles
- Slow cooker chicken vindaloo
- Salt cod balls with chipotle mayonnaise dip
- Mexican tortilla and lime soup
- Turkey and white bean chili
- Mushroom bhaji
- Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice)
- Vegetarian Cuban canapes
- Empanadas filled with chicken picadillo
- Chicken and shrimp jambalaya
I haven't made any garlic desserts yet. Not sure how I feel about garlic ice cream, but I'm thinking about it.
Store garlic in whole heads, in a dry, cool part of the pantry. Once the head is broken apart, unpeeled individual cloves will last for five days. You can freeze the whole unpeeled garlic bulb, wrapped in aluminum foil, for six months or more; break off cloves as you need them, and leave the rest in the freezer.
Use the search box on the right (up near the top of this page) to find more recipes and fun facts about garlic in The Perfect Pantry.
What do you make with garlic? Have you tried any unusual or heirloom varieties?
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