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Elements / One ingredient, one dish

Kindling bad breath is only one of the powers attributed to garlic in the thousands of years that humans have enjoyed eating this lily cousin.

Ancient Greeks believed garlic could cure respiratory problems and expel parasites. The Egyptians fed garlic to slaves, believing it would strengthen the muscles of those building the pyramids, but pharaohs loved it, too. Small garlic clove clay figurines were found in Tutankhamen's tomb.

Garlic's true ferocity comes out when raw and pulverized. For tamer flavor, cooks slice or slightly crush whole cloves.

Roasted until soft or sauteed gently in butter or oil, garlic sweetens and softens. Avoid overcooking, since dark brown cooked garlic seems unhappily bitter to many palates.

Hard-necked beauties: Three types of garlic are most common in the United States: white-skinned garlic, rosy-skinned garlic and massive cloves of "elephant garlic," which is actually more of a leek in botany terms. Garlic is also classified as hard-neck (stems above the bulb remain stiff after maturation, grown in colder climes) and soft-neck (wilting stem, grown in warmer areas).

Made in China: About 75 percent of the world's garlic is grown in China, followed by India, South Korea and Russia. But you can find hard-necked garlic grown by Western New York garlic specialists at local farmers' markets.

Here, garlic flavors homemade mayonnaise, giving you aioli, which French and Italian cooks use as a flavorful accompaniment to platters of fresh vegetables, blanched or raw.

Be careful to add the oil to the yolk mixture slowly, in a scant drizzle, until you see the emulsion effect take over and the liquid becomes smooth and uniform. Then you can continue to add oil more swiftly. (Source: Mark Bittman, "Quick and Easy Recipes")

>Aioli with fresh vegetables

2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups olive oil, extra virgin preferred
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups of vegetables, such as fresh bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, blanched string beans, asparagus or small potatoes

Add yolks, mustard and pinches of salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor or blender, and pulse a few times until thoroughly combined.

With the motor running, add oil through the feed tube in a thin stream until mixture becomes thick and creamy. Then the oil can be added at a faster pace, until fully incorporated.

Stir in minced garlic and lemon juice, and adjust salt and pepper. Let aioli rest for an hour to develop garlic flavor. Serve in a bowl surrounded by an array of dipping vegetables.

Note: Recipes using raw egg carry a slight chance of salmonella poisoning. The very old, very young and those with immune system problems probably should abstain.

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