The Stinking Rose. The Vampire Slayer. The First Date Death.
Any of these names signify the allium that most of us know as garlic. Strong, mild, sweet, spicy, and every flavor in between, garlic is used prevalently in almost every cuisine on the planet. It has many nutritious properties, a distinctive taste, and can be found perennially.
When choosing garlic, you want a tightly closed bulb with no discernible soggy or damp spots. After you break off a clove, smash it by pressing on the clove with the side of your knife blade. The peel should come right off if you really lean down hard on the blade. Using a full clove, drop it into olive oil, bring it to a simmer, remove the clove, and put the oil in a bottle. There you go – homemade garlic olive oil that you can augment with chopped chiles, fresh rosemary, or cracked black pepper. Just be sure to remove any flavorings before you bottle the oil.
To work the garlic into a paste, sprinkle kosher or coarse sea salt over the clove, chop it finely, then smush it with the broad side of the blade. If you keep mushing it against the cutting board, the salt will agitate the garlic, breaking it down to a smooth, sticky paste. Now, you have a garlic paste that is ideal for when you want to use raw garlic because there are no big, unnervingly pungent chunks. Mix it with mayonnaise, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, and Worcestershire sauce for a salmonella-free Caesar dressing. Stir it into melted butter with dried oregano, pour the mixture over sliced Italian bread, then bake at 350 F until golden for the world’s easiest garlic bread. Or, keep the head of garlic intact, and slice off one end. Drizzle olive oil in the cut end, wrap the head in tinfoil, and chuck it in the oven at 400 F for about an hour, or until the cloves have deepened in color and are very soft. Squeeze the liquid gold out of their papery pouches, and rub them on bread, serve them with roasted chicken, or eat them by the forkful. The garlic becomes sweet and absolutely mild—roasting it totally transforms the flavor.
Whatever way you choose to eat garlic, just remember—only kiss someone who has eaten dinner with you! Otherwise, the garlic may be your only bedfellow.