By Linda Morel
You can buy perfectly pungent garlic all year, so who knew the tastiest garlic of the year is flooding markets this month?
Often sneered at as the stinking rose, no ingredient is as misunderstood as the lowly garlic clove. Yet, it’s ubiquitous — the ingredient that’s the most versatile and flavorful, elevating dishes from bland to spectacular.
Garlic enriches salad dressings, marinades, casseroles, stews, pasta sauces, roasted vegetables, fish, meat, guacamole, hummus, baba ghanoush and so much more.
Despite garlic’s robust reputation, almost every savory recipe starts with a clove or two of garlic. Cookbook author Ina Garten raises the ante in her recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, which dazzles anyone lucky enough to eat it.
Overpowering aroma aside, garlic is actually delicate. When heat hits garlic, it can burn easily. On a dime, garlic turns from sumptuous to bitter.
While handling fresh garlic is challenging, jarred minced garlic is a big disappointment, especially since it’s so easy to preserve fresh garlic cloves in a jar of olive oil. Store-bought peeled garlic is a good compromise but the cloves need to be consumed quickly before they turn.
In the movie “Goodfellas,” Mafioso Paulie performed a ritual every night in prison as he prepared dinner for his buddies. With a razor blade, he sliced garlic cloves so thin that they liquefied in a pool of olive oil warmed in a skillet. Although his ethics were shaky, he gave garlic the respect it deserves.
Sauteed garlic in olive oil
Yield: ¼ cup
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
Chop the garlic fine or squeeze it through a garlic press. Place it in a bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame until warm. Spoon the garlic into the oil. Sprinkle it with salt. Stir it for a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Remove it from the flame before it burns or overcooks.
Serve the garlic over a pound of pasta, goat cheese, feta cheese or plain yogurt. Brush it onto sourdough toast and serve it as an hors d’oeuvres.
This can be made a week in advance if covered and refrigerated. Return the garlic to room temperature or gently reheat it before using.
Ziti with garlic and broccoli
- 2 drops olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons, or more if needed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 head of broccoli
- 8-10 cloves of garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 1 pound ziti
Fill a large pot with water. Add 2 drops of olive oil and the kosher salt. Cover the pot, and bring it to a boil over a high flame.
Meanwhile, cut the florets off of the broccoli stems. If some are larger than bite-sized, cut them into halves or thirds. Reserve.
Chop the garlic fine or squeeze it through a garlic press. Reserve it in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the onion into thin slices, and add it to the bowl.
Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a medium-large skillet. Heat it over a medium-low flame. Add the broccoli and stir. Cover the skillet and braise the broccoli until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add more oil, if needed. Move the broccoli to a bowl.
Pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onions. Stir almost constantly. The onions will naturally break into rings. When this mixture is fragrant, return the broccoli to the skillet. Remove the skillet from the heat, and cover it.
When the water comes to a boil, add the ziti and cook it according to the package instructions. Drain it in a colander, and move it to a pasta bowl. Place the garlic broccoli mixture on top. Serve it with a generous amount of Parmigiano cheese, if desired.