Highly prized for over 5,000 years, garlic’s rich and fascinating history has made it one of the most widely-used herbs in the world. From ancient Egypt to the modern-day Mediterranean, China, India and more, it has enjoyed a longstanding affinity with many cultures and cuisines. It not only flavors basic dishes, it relieves discomforts through its medicinal properties. Depending upon how garlic is prepared, its distinctive taste ranges between mildness and exceptional pungence. It’s also extremely effective as an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, vermifugal and anti-parasitic as well as a powerful anti-cancer agent.
Garlic’s intense flavor comes from its oils and juices. There are several ways to prepare it, and each will influence its taste, aroma and interactions with other ingredients.
One method is to use it raw. Garlic lends a nice dimension to salads when you rub a cut clove inside a salad bowl before adding the salad. Raw garlic can also be infused into oils and vinegars. Its health benefits are at their most potent when it’s uncooked. Heat denatures many of its properties and nutrients.
Raw garlic contains an amino acid, alliin, that remains inert until the clove is crushed or cut. Once exposed to air, the garlic releases the enzyme alliinase. Alliinase combines with alliin to produce allicin — garlic’s anticancer agent. Waiting 15 or 20 minutes allows enough time for this magical medicinal metamorphosis to manifest.
Activating garlic before you cook with it can give you the best of both worlds. Cooking doesn’t interfere with allicin completely, but it does weaken it. Still, better if you’re going to cook with garlic to at least include as many of its benefits as you can. Besides fighting cancer and offering other health benefits, allicin-activated garlic creates a nice medium-level link between strong flavors like tomato and oregano.
Garlic blends beautifully with the sweet mildness of gently-melted butter for an elegantly simple sauce that can take whatever you put it on to the next level. Garlic sautées best at a low heat for a short time. It browns quickly in butter. If the garlic burns, then your sauce will be bitter. A good time to take it off of the heat would be when it becomes translucent and soft, unless you want to go for that slightly darker flavor. But you may want to watch things closely because once they get to a certain point the garlic, and probably the butter with it, will jump the fence. Just be vigilant because butter has a fairly low melting point. That said, plain garlic-butter pasta with shrimp, garlic-roasted or -sautéed vegetables like peppers or squash and garlic bread all provide tasty options.
If you want mild garlicky flavor, the cloves can either be sliced or left whole. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, in which the garlic melts, blends and stews in a good amount of wine, is one example. Baked garlic by itself makes a nutty, sweet spread for crackers. Visit mealfan.com, to learn how to cook more garlic dishes
Even more methods
While whole or sliced garlic adds mildness, chopped garlic brings a medium intensity. Chopping works well for hamburgers broiled on the grill. Although this is really a subjective judgment, most of the time when people grill it’s because they enjoy that flame-broiled flavor. Garlic happens to bring out a quality in the meat that’s part of the whole grilling experience, so it’s already a natural choice for seasoning meat. By mixing in chopped garlic, you get enough of its flavor and aroma to create some balance without making it compete with the flame-broiled taste.
If you want a strong flavor that will unapologetically stand out among the other ingredients, then minced garlic is the way to go. The garlic itself will melt into the dish, but the flavor won’t. The smaller you cut it, the more of its juices and oils the garlic will release. This would be the next step up for people who like their burgers grilled, but prefer the combination of stronger flavors you’d get by mincing the garlic before mixing it into the meat.
For a super-intense garlicky flavor: just go ahead and smush it! This is the most effective way to maximize the release of oils and juices, but it will have you running for the coffee beans! At this level of intensity, odor eradication is a must-have skill. Rubbing your hands on stainless steel can also help.
Garlic is one of those amazing herbs that people either love or strongly dislike. If you’re on the fence, we hope this article will give you pause to reconsider and try out one of the methods above. Eating to lower blood pressure and bolster your immunity can help you stay young and healthy. Garlic’s a great friend when you know how to handle it.