Late to find favor, garlic is now a vital ingredient

Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jan 05, 2011 - 05:52 PM

Photo: With a couple of garlic bulbs placed in a baking dish, seasoned and then placed in the oven, you have an appetizer you’ll enjoy and then make again and again. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

With a couple of garlic bulbs placed in a baking dish, seasoned and then placed in the oven, you have an appetizer you’ll enjoy and then make again and again. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Garlic, dubbed The Stinking Rose, is a much-used herb, but do we know much about it? Americans consume more than 250 million pounds annually. It wasn’t until around 1940 that America embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a minor seasoning, but as a major ingredient in recipes. It had been frowned upon by gourmet food experts in this country until the first quarter of the 20th century, being found almost exclusively in the ethnic dishes of working class neighborhoods. Today we add it to recipes either in salt, fresh or dried forms without even thinking about it.

Besides being a flavoring for other foods, garlic can stand alone. Baked whole garlic cloves are considered a gourmet dish and can be found on many upscale restaurants’ menus. If you haven’t already tried this item, try it now. Its nutty flavor will delight your palate.

When garlic cloves are baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. As they are cooked in butter, you have the pleasure of eating the cloves; but never throw away the butter in the cooking container. It makes great seasoning for fish, sausages, etc. One raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed, releases more flavor than a dozen cooked whole cloves.

If you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel the cloves before pressing. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool’s cavity, press, and discard the skins left behind. If you need to peel garlic cloves, try placing them on a cutting board and gently pressing down quickly with the flat side of a butcher knife. The skin should then easily peel off.