The Mighty Bulb

It's hard to imagine a world without this beloved and essential ingredient.

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The late Anthony Bourdain once said that “the misuse of garlic is a crime.” Burning and using old garlic are two of these crimes. Read on for tips on how to best incorporate this seasoning in your cooking. 

GARLIC MUST-KNOWS

Let’s start with the fact that only fresh garlic belongs in a kitchen, not old garlic and definitely not the minced stuff found in a jar at the grocery store. That’s because fresh garlic imparts a significantly better flavor into food and it is healthier for you when it’s fresh peeled and chopped. Sure, it’s a bit tedious but it’s worth it, and you can always cheat and use a garlic press. The good news is that garlic can stay fresh for several weeks, but keep in mind that once you break the bulb and remove cloves from it, its life span begins to shorten. The best place to store garlic is in a dark, dry place such as a basket on your kitchen counter. 

The best place to store garlic is in a dark, dry place such as a basket on your kitchen counter.

This brings us to our next important point about garlic. The bulb refers to its teardrop-shape and typically contains about 10 to 20 individual cloves, depending on the size of the bulb. There’s a trick to make peeling garlic easier and faster. Slice off each end of a clove and turn your chef's knife sideways so that the broad, flat side of the knife is parallel to your cutting board and the sharp edge is facing away from you. Then, simply place your knife this way on top of the clove and firmly tap the blade of the knife with the heel of your hand to crush the garlic clove. This helps the papery skins to rub off easily. Garlic paper will also loosen easier if you throw the amount of cloves you want into a covered jar and shake vigorously.

The bulb refers to its teardrop-shape and typically contains about 10 to 20 individual cloves, depending on the size of the bulb.

IN COOKING

Garlic is a relative of the onion family and China produces the vast majority of the world’s supply. Garlic is used in almost every savory dish you can think of, from soups and stews to marinades and condiments like gremolata, a classic Italian recipe that consists of parsley, garlic and lemon typically paired with fish and veal. While most recipes call for cloves, one of the best ways to enjoy garlic is to roast the whole bulb before removing its cloves and adding it to mashed potatoes or hummus. 

It's important to remember that garlic burns easily so, generally, it’s a good idea to wait to add it until about half-way through the cooking process (for example, in stir-fries) or just before you add a liquid element, such as stock, to a pan, which will bring down the temperature and prevent burning. Cooking will also help to mellow out garlic’s spicy, pungent flavor.

While most recipes call for cloves, one of the best ways to enjoy garlic is to roast the whole bulb before removing its cloves and adding it to mashed potatoes or hummus.

BLACK GARLIC

When we think about garlic, it is white garlic that comes to mind, since it’s the plant most commonly used, but there are many other less known varieties, including black and purple. Once much more obscure and only used in high end restaurants, black garlic is now becoming much more accessible to home cooks, easily found at most large grocery stores. It comes from a several-weeks-long heating and drying process, wherein it slowly caramelizes and concentrates. It was first made popular through Asian cuisine and, unlike white garlic, the flavour of black garlic is mild and can almost or entirely disappear, depending on the length of time you cook it for. For that reason, much more black garlic is needed in a recipe if you want to be able to taste its subtle flavor. 

Once much more obscure and only used in high end restaurants, black garlic is now becoming much more accessible to home cooks, easily found at most large grocery stores.

Black garlic does not contain the sulphur compounds that fresh garlic does, so one of its main benefits is that it won’t give you garlic breath, even if you eat a whole clove or two. There are a ton of ways to cook with black garlic. Purée it with oil, smear the paste on crostini, and you’ve got yourself a tasty canapé, or blend it with rice vinegar and drizzle on sliced cucumber for a light and refreshing snack. Black garlic is also great to incorporate into rubs for chicken or fish before roasting. Surprisingly, many people enjoy eating it on its own and liken it to sweet tamarind fruit or balsamic vinegar. In fact, reduced balsamic vinegar is a suitable substitute for it. Perhaps the best use for this unique ingredient, however, is in pasta. We recommend starting with the recipe for Black Garlic and Mushroom Linguine included in this week’s menu.