The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:57 PM

Food of the Day - Garlic

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Garlic is the bulb of of an ancient plant. This wondrous food has been used as a vegetable, an herb, and a spice for ages.  Used across the world, from European cuisines, to Asian cooking, to common American foods, garlic is one the most popular and highly-used foods in existence.  Garlic has long been used now only for its great flavor, but for its strong medicinal properties.

Types of Garlic
Garlic comes in several forms, sizes and colors.  Each hold the characteristically strong, spicy and pungent flavor and smell of garlic, but offer somewhat varying experiences.
Typical "culinary" garlic is the variety which you will find in just about any store or supermarket.  This type of garlic is well-balanced, and has a wide variety of uses.  It has a whitish-gray papery cover, and the inner cloves are typically a a light, sometimes purplish brown color.   This type of garlic can be used for anything, and is by far the most common.
 Ramsons Garlic

The leaves and flowers or the northern European Ramsons garlic (or wild garlic) can be eaten, placed in salads, mixed into sauces, and used as a garnish in many dishes.  the leaves can also be fed to livestock.
Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlic, one of my favorite varieties, can be purchased in specialty food stores, and sometimes in your local supermarket.  The bulbs and cloves are much larger than regular garlic (about six times larger), and the cloves have a milder and somewhat more sweet flavor than typical garlic, making it a more likely candidate for many raw garlic applications.  Elephant garlic can be found in a typical garlic form (albeit larger), or in a single-bulb variety, which has one large clove inside.  Elephant garlic is a great option for roasting garlic whole.  Note that, due to its more bland flavor, this type of garlic may not be suitable for strong flavoring instances, where a more pungent garlic would be preferable.
Creole Silverskin Garlic

Silverskin garlic is a very strong type of garlic, some of which have a reddish parchment.  This type of garlic is often dried.
 Artichoke Garlic

Artichoke garlic is a more mild variety of garlic that can have a slight reddish-purple tinge.  This type of garlic often has more, smaller cloves, and thus can be utilized when only a small amount of garlic is needed.
 Whole Rocambole Garlic

Rocambole garlic is another garlic that has a moderate infusion of purple color.  This type of garlic is light on the outer parchment, and has a stronger, rich flavor.
  Porcelain Garlic

Porcelain garlic has cloves that are large, similar to those of the elephant garlic variety.  This type of garlic also has a strong, pungent flavor.
  Purple Stripe Garlic

Purple stripe garlic boasts just that - beautiful purple stripes on the outer paper.  This type of garlic holds up well, and is often used for baking whole.
Garlic can be found whole, dried, sold in pre-peeled form in containers, sold chopped in oil, sold minced and frozen, or in powdered, granulated, or fried formats.  Garlic powders vary in style and texture, and are often used as flavorings in many commercial products, and can be found mixed with many different types of spice blends, including garlic salt.  But of them all, nothing can beat real, fresh garlic!
Garlic has nearly limitless uses.  It can be sliced, chopped, minced, or used whole, and added to sauces, soups, meat dishes, salads, or just about anywhere else you can think to put it. Try using a garlic press for a simple, effective way to chop garlic into your dish, with little mess.
Tip: if you don't like the smell of garlic on your hands when you chop it, and you want to use really fresh garlic, try wearing polyurethane or latex gloves while you chop your garlic.  This will stop the oils (and thus the smells) from getting on your hands.
  Peeled Garlic Cloves

Try using slices of raw elephant garlic to flavor a salad, or taking whole garlic cloves, cutting them in half, and rubbing them on bread to directly impart that wonderful garlic flavor.  Whatever you are making, whether you need heavy or mild garlic flavor, there is a product out there to add this wonderful food to your dish!
Also, look for garlic oil at your local supermarket or specialty food store.  Garlic oil has a great flavor, and can be used to enhance the flavor of any food cooked in oil, by adding that distinctive garlic taste.
Shopping for Garlic
When selecting garlic in the store, look for whole heads that do not look shriveled up.  Never purchase garlic that seems moist, or garlic that has green shoots stemming from it.  The garlic should be firm, and the cloves should not be showing (it should be totally covered by the parchment outside wrapping).  Garlic that looks fresh stands apart from old, sad garlic, and the difference in flavor is very noticable.  Also, if your garlic at home starts to get this way, replace it immediately! Old garlic loses is pungency, and can also have a bitter, foul aftertaste and smell.  You can keep whole cloves sealed and in the refrigerator after they are removed from the head.
 Garlic Chives Plant

Garlic Chives
Although not actually garlic, this plant, though similar in texture to a large chive, has a taste that is very similar to garlic.  The stalks can be used to impart a garlic flavor to many dishes.

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