Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tip Tuesday


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As you can probably tell, the topic today is garlic. This is one of my favorite cooking ingredients, as it gives tons of flavor for so little cost. You can buy whole bulbs of garlic in the produce department or go for the chopped garlic in jars. I keep both on hand. And garlic comes in many other forms, such as powder, paste and dried.

The versatile cloves have been used medicinally since the Middle Ages, when monks used them to ward off plague. In WWII, garlic poultices were used as a substitute for antibiotics when necessary. Today we know that garlic is a powerful antioxidant, good for heart health. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and is a blood-thinning agent.

A bulb of garlic usually contains 10 to 20 cloves. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place. A few handy tips:

1) The smaller the garlic cuts the more potent the garlic flavor. That is due to more surface area exposed to the air.

2) One medium clove equals approximately 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic.

3) Easily peel garlic cloves by smashing with the broad side of a heavy knife. The peels will simply slide off the clove.

4) When cooking with garlic, be sure to avoid burning or over-cooking as it will become bitter.

5) To roast a whole bulb, cut off the top and place on a piece of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

6) One raw clove, finely chopped or minced, has more flavor than 12 whole cloves.

7) Did you know garlic can be frozen? You can wrap and freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs. Or wrap chopped or crushed garlic in plastic wrap to freeze. Another option would be to puree 1 part garlic to 2 parts oil, then freeze in ice cube trays.

8) Garlic-infused oils became popular a few years ago; however, they must be stored in the refrigerator and used as quickly as possible. Storing at room temperature can lead to botulism formation.

9) Cooking will normally reduce that strong flavor, making it mild, nutty and slightly sweet, but slow cooking intensifies it.

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A couple of my favorite uses for garlic are in Garlic Mashed Potatoes and White Bean Hummus.
The potatoes are basically the same as you’d normally make them, but add some whole garlic cloves to the water when boiling them. How many you use depends on how much garlic flavor you like. Do not remove the cloves when draining off the water, and they’ll whip up with the potatoes, adding a sweet, nutty flavor.

The hummus is a recipe I’ve had for a long time, and have no idea where it came from – it’s written on one of my many scraps of paper in the recipe files. I mix it up in the Magic Bullet, and it’s done in no time at all. It may not be “traditional” hummus, but is pretty tasty!

WHITE BEAN HUMMUS
1 (16 oz.) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Process until smooth. Store in refrigerator.

Notes: I have made this with great northern beans and with navy beans, and it works just as well. Bottled lemon juice isn’t as fresh-tasting, but can be used. If you don’t have fresh thyme, use about 1/8 teaspoon dried.

Great with cut-up bagels, tortilla chips, vegetables.

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For those of you in the area, the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival will be held July 26, 27 and 28 this year in Gilroy, California. Sounds like a good time!

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A couple of garlic quotes:
"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good!" - Alice May Brock

"A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat." - Old New York Yiddish Saying

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Your comments and suggestions – and recipes – are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

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