The Stinking Rose
Garlic is used with abundance in a myriad of dishes. Its relatives include onion, shallot, leek and chive, but garlic is, by far, the most pungent of the group.
Garlic is usually grown as an annual crop and propagated by planting cloves. There are two main types of garlic – softneck and hardneck. Softneck varieties produce numerous, smaller cloves and hardneck varieties produce fewer, larger cloves surrounding a stalk or “scape.”
Scapes are removed as the garlic grows to preserve the bulb size. Don’t miss out if you spot some scapes at the markets. These scapes are tender green, curly stalks prized for their delicate garlic flavor in pastas, soups, sauces and salads.
Elephant garlic looks like a giant clove of common garlic but is more closely related to a leek. The taste is slightly garlicy, but not pungent – making it more palatable when used raw. While conventional garlic heads are made up of 10 to 15 cloves, elephant garlic has around six, large yellowish cloves.
Does “stinking rose” sound familiar? Garlic is referred to the stinking rose because of its bud-like appearance and strong smell. How strong the garlic ends up, depends on how it is treated in the kitchen.
A head of garlic consists of several cloves, each wrapped in its own skin with all the cloves enclosed in a common outer skin. Whole, unpeeled garlic is the mildest, minced or sliced garlic is stronger and mashed garlic releases most of its potent juices to be the strongest.
A recipe like garlic soup requires several peeled cloves. Use the boiling water method to speed up the peeling process. Drop cloves into boiling water for 30 seconds, rinse under cold water, drain and peel. The skins come off easily.
To peel just a few cloves, set the cloves on a wooden board and place the flat side of a knife on one garlic clove at a time. Hit the knife with your palm to loosen the skin from the garlic. Peel and discard the skin, then cut the root off the clove.
Roasted garlic is creamy, sweet and delicious when spread on warm toast or made into sauces and dips. Remove any extra layers of paper skin from the head of garlic. Cut ¼ inch from the top to expose the individual cloves. Place each head, cut side up, on a piece of tinfoil (large enough to wrap the head in a parcel) and drizzle with a little olive oil. Wrap up each parcel and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until cloves are light brown and soft.
There are a few simple tricks to remove the lingering smell of garlic on your hands after peeling and chopping. Wash your hands with soap and water, then carefully rub your fingers on the flat side of a stainless steel blade. It neutralizes and diminish the smell! Baking soda also helps to absorb the odor. Make a paste by mixing 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and a splash of water. Rub into your hands for 30 seconds and then wash with soap and water.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. For more information visit www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call 925.322.6228.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.