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March 27, 2011

REMIX: Garlic (recipes, stories and sources in The Perfect Pantry)

Stir fried garlic lettuce

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.

In the house where I grew up, garlic seldom had a place at the table, or in the pantry, or in the grocery bag. I didn't learn to appreciate the ooze of garlic through my pores until I started learning to cook in my own kitchen.

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.

Garlic

One thing we've learned about garlic is that it's old, so old that slaves building the pyramids in Egypt were fed garlic to increase their strength, and King Tut was buried with it.

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.

Moqueca

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.

Shish taouk (garlic chicken on skewers)

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:

Gremolata

Almost every stir-fry recipe I've posted here starts with garlic:

Sesame shrimp fried rice

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:

Mushroom bhaji

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?

Comments

Appreciate the tip on freezing garlic. Also, I'm with you on garlic ice cream---never tried it, but I might :)

Beautiful pictures. I really cant' understand not eating garlic.

My garlic plants are about an inch high, now that the snow and ice are melted and they're only predicting a "dusting" this week - spring will be here soon and then it'll be time for garlic scapes! they're definitely a bonus crop.

Love it! Love it! Garlic is one seasoning that I use in abundance, otherwise, I'm known as a "wimpy mouth".

I think garlic ice cream would be perfect as a topping for chicken pot pie. Seriously. I might just try it! I grew up in a home with no garlic either. I've been making up for that since my college days. ;-) So many beautiful photos of fabulous food with all these great links, too. We're covered with snow here today, but glad you've found some early goodness in your garden, Lydia. :-)

Shirley

Garlic is something I add to almost every savory dish, and whenever I see it in a recipe I usually double the amount. Lucky you to find some growing!

Sandie, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it!

Joshua, I can't understand it, either.

Kate, I do cut the garlic scapes every year, but I forget to dig up the garlic. At some point I think I just became afraid of what I'd find below the surface of the soil.

Pauline, same here. I can't imagine cooking without it.

Shirley, I'm giggling!

Kalyn, in my mind, garlic and onions are joined at the hip. I put them in everything.

Smells like garlic! :))) So much garlic, but I like very much, although my stomach doesn't feel so good after. But I try eat from time to time, I like the flavor and I heard that is good for preventing the flu.

Lydia, wait another month and pull one up - even if the bulb isn't formed you can slice up the stem while it's still young and use it like garlicy scallions - the garlic guy at the farmer's market always has some to sell in the spring.

funny enough - Like you there was no garlic in my house growing up but somewhere in the 80's I figured out that it existed and haven't stopped using ever since! (thanks Julia and Jeff on PBS)

If I had to undertake the ice cream challenge, I'm thinking a caramel or dulche de leche ice cream with roasted garlic swirl might not be a bad thing.

Unfortunately, I've had the "garlic ice cream" at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It was a "chocolate" soft serve, meaning it was cocoa-flavored fro-yo. I'm not sure how they got the garlic flavor into the mix, but it was pretty awful: Tasted like lousy chocolate milk that had picked up refrigerator odors. Just badly done on all points: almost non-existent chocolate and I think they used juice from elephant garlic, which always tastes like rotten onions to me. Yech

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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