Magazine article Sunset

Glorious Garlic: How to Make the Most of This Explosive Herb

Magazine article Sunset

Glorious Garlic: How to Make the Most of This Explosive Herb

Article excerpt

Garlic fever may be at an all-time high, but Americans were slow to catch it. Native to Southwest Asia, garlic traveled to Europe and finally came to America with the Spaniards. Highly esteemed by ancient cultures, this humble bulb didn't break free of puritanical taboos held by Anglo-Saxons in America until the mid-20th century.

Some trace the roots of today's garlic explosion to the '50s, when James Beard's daring recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic swept food circles. Julia Child, too, has unabashedly used whole heads of garlic in her recipes. But these two master chefs weren't doing anything new - French chefs had long been cooking garlic slowly to develop its gentle sweetness and buttery texture.

Beard and Child were not the only ones to open American eyes - and palates - to the wonders of garlic. Immigrants from Europe and Asia brought their garlic-infused cuisines with them.

In 1974, L. John Harris, journalist and garlic guru, wrote The Book of Garlic, and shortly afterward, the author and his fans banded together to form the Lovers of the Stinking Rose club. While working briefly for Chez Panisse Cafe and Restaurant in Berkeley, Harris persuaded owner Alice Waters to stage the first recorded garlic festival in the United States. A magnificent feast - with garlic featured in every course - marked the historic event, held at the restaurant on Bastille Day, July 14, 1976.

In the summer of 1979, the small farm town of Gilroy, California, turned garlic to gold with its first garlic festival, patterning it after one in Arleux, France. The first year brought 15,000 garlic fanatics. Now more than 130,000 attend to eat, drink, and dance, consuming more than 3,000 pounds of garlic in three days.

Garlic has been variously described as rich and resonant, sharp and racy, piquant and hot, sweet and buttery - all qualities that are hard to resist. So cook up a batch of pickled garlic for use almost anytime, or prepare garlic chicken bites for your next party.

Pickled Garlic

MAKES 1 CUP

Prep and cook time: About 30 minutes

Notes: Serve these mild cloves with grilled meats or in sandwiches or salads. To save time, purchase peeled cloves.

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon hot chili flakes 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed 1 cup large garlic cloves, peeled

1. In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart pan, combine vinegar, sugar, chili flakes, peppercorns, and cumin seed. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add garlic cloves and return to a boil; simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a jar.

2. Cover, cool, and chill at least 24 hours or up to 1 month. …

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