Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have ranged from curing a toothache to warding off evil demons. What has been proven, though, is that garlic has anticancer and cholesterol-lowering properties, and research suggests that garlic can boost the immune system and perhaps thwart some viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. The ingredient in garlic that gives it such a strong odor, allicin, can destroy fungi, bacteria and yeast, and has antibacterial action equivalent to a one percent penicillin solution. The makers of garlic pills claim they have the same beneficial properties as the real thing, but there's no reliable evidence to support this. And most doctors will tell you that it's always better to eat the actual food rather than a synthesized extract. There are some downsides to eating the natural form, however. At high doses, it can cause stomach upset, and it's not a good idea to eat any amount of fresh garlic, powder, or extract on an empty stomach.
Garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The bulb grows beneath the ground. The bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchment like membrane. Garlic flakes, powder, salt, extract and juice, are all convenient, but they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available, easy-to-store, fresh garlic.
A garlic press is a kitchen tool used to press a garlic clove through small holes, thereby extracting both pulp and juice. Every well-stocked kitchen should have one.
When mincing garlic, sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over them. This will keep the pieces from sticking to the knife and cutting board. It's also produces a nice flavor.
Garlic will keep at room temperature (in a dry, cool and dark place) for at least several weeks, and as long as six months. Refrigeration is not recommended.
When purchasing garlic, look for firm, plump bulbs with clean, dry, unbroken skins. Avoid soft, spongy or shriveled garlic. Dieters may use garlic with a lavish hand, since each clove contains only one to two calories.
To freshen your breath after eating garlic, chew a mouthful of fresh parsley.
The longer garlic is cooked, the milder it becomes. When sautéing garlic, be careful not to burn it. Burned garlic will have a biter taste, so discard it and start again.
Roasting garlic mellows the flavor and softens it to a wonderful, spreadable paste. Spread on crusty French bread, roasted garlic makes a delicious hors d' oeuvre.
To roast a whole garlic head, cut the garlic in half crosswise, drizzle a teaspoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil over the top of each half, and season with salt, pepper or your favorite herbs. Wrap the garlic halves in foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. To remove the garlic, push the cloves out of their skins.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 1/2 pounds medium red or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the potatoes, garlic and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Cover the pan and simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. 2. Drain the potatoes and garlic well, and pass them through a ricer or mash them with a potato masher. Stir in the milk and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the mashed potatoes with the olive oil and serve.
Roast Cornish Hens with Mixed Herbs and Lemon
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 Cornish hens (about 1 pound each)
Juice of 1 lemon
1. PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 450º. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with the parsley, thyme and sage. Stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Loosen the breast skin of each Cornish hen with your fingers. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture under the skin of each bird, rubbing it over the breast and thighs. Rub the hens with the remaining herb mixture and transfer to a baking dish.
3. Roast the hens in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes, basting once or twice. Reduce the oven temperature to 300º and continue roasting the birds for 15 to 20 minutes longer, basting occasionally, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a skewer.
4. Transfer the Cornish hens to a platter and drizzle with the lemon juice. Cover the birds loosely with foil and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
For links to hundreds of other great garlic recipes, and lots more garlic information, visit Prodigy Internet's Food Community.
TOP SECRET RESTAURANT RECIPES: CREATING KITCHEN CLONES FROM AMERICAN'S FAVORITE RESTAURANT CHAINS is the new book that cracks the code to some of America's favorite restaurant meals. In this volume of 110 recipes, Todd Wilbur duplicates recipes for chain favorites such as Outback Steakhouse, Bloomin' Onion, Pizza Hut Original Stuffed Crust Pizza, IHOP Banana Nut Pancakes, T.G.I.Friday's Potato Skins, Planet Hollywood's Chicken Crunch, the Hard Rock Café's Famous Baby Rock Watermelon Ribs, and Dive's Brick Oven Mushroom and Turkey Cheese Sub. "The Top Secret Recipes version may not be prepared the exact same way as the original," writes Wilbur, "but as long as the finished product is identical in taste, how we get to that point is inconsequential. Be aware that my intention here is not to steal the original recipe from the creators, only to duplicate the finished product as closely as possible, with ingredients you can find in any supermarket." Check out the Top Secret Website.
SOMETHING TASTES FUNNY is the new cookbook by the "How To Boil Water" guy on TV Food Network, Sean Donnellan. After hosting 260 episodes showing us how much he didn't know about cooking, it might seem strange that he has come out with his own book. But the guy is really funny. For those of you familiar with Sean and his wacky antics on the show, you might be surprised to learn that his book is really a very practical culinary primer for the novice cook. It certainly is an original.
More addicting than potato chips, and healthy too! Delightful, crunchy TERRA CHIPS, made from root vegetables, are positively addictive. Yam, yucca, taro, batata, parsnip, sweet potato, lotus root and celery root are thinly sliced, fried and lightly salted. All in all, a guaranteed conversation piece! Serve with your favorite sandwich. Available at Trader Joe's and other gourmet grocery stores, for about $2.99.
If you hate tearing lettuce but you don't like the way it browns if you use a knife, try the LETTUCE KNIFE. It's made of plastic in a (very easy to locate) bright shade of turquoise green. It's dishwasher safe and pretty safe to have around the kids, since the blade is just barely sharp and the serrations are rounded. It works well for cutting lettuce, and the manufacturer also says it can be used as a fish scaler and a cake decorator too. (But I'd wash it between those two uses!) Available through mail order. (800) 667-9727 $6.95
Among the world's oldest kitchen tools, the volcanic rock MORTAR & PESTLE remain unsurpassed for crushing whole spices and blending rustic sauces. This one is made in Mexico and available through the Williams-Sonoma catalog. (800) 541-2233 $20.