Garlic: A Quick Guide
Garlic, there's nothing like the smell of garlic. It's great in soups and sauces, roasted with meats or on it's own, and it's wonderful mixed with butter and slathered on bread and then baked.
The scientific name for garlic is Allium Sativum. It's related to the lily and the onion. Although associated with the onion, and using a taste that really slightly resembles that of an onion, garlic doesn't bring tears to the eyes when sliced.
When buying fresh garlic, make certain the head feels very firm once you squeeze it. With time, garlic will soften and begin to sprout, which turns the garlic bitter. To keep fresh garlic, keep it in a dark, cool place, like the basement. Don't refrigerate or freeze the garlic, as it will start to loose it is taste.
To peel a clove of garlic, put it on a cutting board, and place the flat of the blade of the knife . Press down on the opposite side of the blade with the heel of your hand, flattening the garlic slightly. The skin will come off.
The strong taste and odor of garlic stem from sulfur compounds inside the cells. The cells that are broken, the stronger the taste of the garlic will be. For the mildest flavor, simply use a complete or slightly crushed clove of garlic. To get a bit stronger taste, slice or chop the garlic, and for the most powerful taste, mash the garlic into a paste.
Cooking garlic tames the strong taste, and changes it in various ways, depending on how it's cooked. If using in a sauce, it may be sweated or sauteed. In sweating the garlic, it's first chopped finely, and then added into a cold pan with some oil, it's then gently heated, causing the oil to become infused with the garlic taste. To sautee garlic, heat the oil in the pan and then add the chopped garlic, stirring frequently, and being careful to not let the garlic burn and become bitter.
Roasting the garlic softens the taste, making it soft and ideal for mixing with cream cheese to spread on toast, or simply spread on the toast .
To roast the garlic, have an entire head of garlic, and remove the papery outer skin. Place the garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil, and drizzle with some olive oil. Loosely wrap the garlic in the foil, and put it into a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the garlic and let it cool. When cool enough to handle, separate the cloves of garlic, and then squeeze every one. The flesh should pop right out. The roasted garlic is fantastic mixed with cheese or potatoes, or on it's own.
Do not be afraid to use garlic in your cooking.