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A LITTLE FRESH GARLIC NEVER HURT ANYONE

Garlic that comes already peeled and minced in a jar is so addictively easy to use. However, there are times when even desperate cooks should use fresh garlic. One of these times is when the garlic is served raw, as in today's recipe for Ziti with Garlic and Tomato No-Cook Sauce.

If you don't use fresh garlic very often (because you're gleefully scooping it out of a jar), the cloves take their revenge by sprouting and shriveling up. It's annoying. What's even more bothersome is when garlic cloves that you bought less than a week ago have already turned yellow and rubbery and have green tail feathers sticking out.

Once again, the best offense is a good defense. Don't assume that the garlic is fresh just because it's still in the supermarket. Give it the old squeeze test: The individual cloves on the bulb should be firm, and the bulb itself should be heavy. Eyeball the top end to look for green sprouts. (This procedure means, of course, that you want to buy garlic that's sold in bulk rather than in sealed boxes.)

Garlic likes a lot of air -- so when you get it home, store the bulbs in a mesh bag, a basket or a pottery jar with holes in it. The pay-off will be that your garlic should last a month (and sometimes longer) this way.

If you're going to refrigerate garlic, you need to peel and rinse it with water first. Dry the cloves, put them in a small jar that has a lid, and cover them with olive oil. Attach the lid, refrigerate, and the garlic will last up to three months.

If you find yourself making do with a sprouted clove (it has been known to happen in our kitchens), cut the clove in half and remove the green sprout first. There will be still enough garlic left to pull you out of a desperate situation.

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Ziti with Garlic and Tomato No-Cook Sauce

Romaine with bottled creamy Italian dressing

Sourdough dinner rolls

ZITI WITH GARLIC AND TOMATO NO-COOK SAUCE

8 ounces ziti pasta or other tubular noodles

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

4 Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped ripe olives

1/4 cup already-shredded Parmesan cheese

Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the pasta in 2 1/2 quarts of already-boiling unsalted water and cook 11 to 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic and pour it into a 4-quart or larger bowl. Pour in the olive oil and Italian seasoning. Chop the unpeeled tomatoes into bite-size pieces and add them to the bowl. Stir until all ingredients are covered with oil. Drain the ripe olives and add them to the bowl.

Drain the pasta in a colander, shaking it to remove as much water as possible. Add the pasta to the bowl. Pour the cheese on top and toss to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Cook's note: Buy the ripe olives already chopped if you can find them. Otherwise, buy sliced olives and chop them finely. Refrigerate the leftover chopped olives in an air-tight container and sprinkle them over salad later in the week.

Approximate values per serving (using Nutritionist IV software): 412 calories (23 percent from fat), 11 grams fat (2 g saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 14 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrates, 147 milligrams sodium.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail: ddinnersaol.com

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