17 October 2010

Op ALPHABET SOUP: G is for Garlic!

Tasty, odiferous garlic has a place in just about every type of cuisine, from Greek to Italian to Asian, from traditional to contemporary. Whether you prefer it as a subtle accent or like to taste it front and centre, there are many ways to work garlic into your daily cuisine.

Garlic can have different impact depending on how and when it's added to a dish. The recipes below give you a drastic contrast in at least two of the faces of garlic -- the bold, sharp and biting flavour that outweighs all others, and conversely, the sweeter, gentler garlic that results from slow cooking.

If the idea of one gives you the shivers, give the other a shot.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 500g)
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan (3/4 c if grating fresh parmesan)
3 to 4 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper
Penne or rotini for 4 people

Cook your chicken breasts -- either grilling (brush on a bit of oil and salt & pepper) over low heat, or poaching in a little white wine or chicken stock with a few chunks of onion and a quartered clove of garlic.

Boil water to cook the pasta. Add the pasta and cook the required time. Keep the lid handy.

Meanwhile, vigorously beat the eggs and olive oil in a bowl, adding some salt and a generous whack of black pepper. Set aside.

Slice the chicken breasts into small chunks, and set aside.

Drain the pasta, and quickly return to the pot, placing over very low heat. Add in the egg and oil mixture, mixing in to coat thoroughly. Add the chicken and olives, garlic, and parmesan. Mix in quickly, then cover.

Allow to stand for about 1 minute, then give another stir before covering again. Allow to heat through for another 2 minutes, then transfer to bowls to serve. Garnish with a bit of fresh parsley or basil and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

This pasta is good with asparagus, snow peas, or red peppers mixed in as well. Just pre-cook  them to al dente, and add when you mix in the chicken and olives. If olives don't do it for you, leave them out, and instead add some artichoke hearts or whatever other tangy accent you'd like.

Preheat your oven to about 325 degrees.

Start with one or two full bulbs of garlic -- that's right, the whole bulb. Knock off any of the really loose papery skin, but leave it as intact as possible.

Using a very sharp large knife, slice the bottom off the bottom of the bulb. Slice off the very top point of the bulb as well. Set the bulb in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the garlic, and cover loosely with foil. Place in oven.

Bake for about 1 hour, removing foil after 45 minutes or so. If you're using larger cloves of garlic (ie purple or elephant garlic) adjust the cooking time accordingly. Another 15 minutes would do it for purple garlic, and about 45 minutes more will do it for elephant garlic.

Now you have many choices for making use of it.

You can serve the garlic as-is, with slices of toasted baguette or crusty bread and a small dish of olive oil. Squeeze a clove at a time out onto a slice of bread and enjoy the sweet bite of garlic at its best.

Alternatively, squeeze cloves out of their skin, chop or mash them, and add to soups or pasta dishes. The flavour is sweet and will be much different than your usual garlic add-ins.

This is also a phenomenal taste to mash in to your potatoes -- given that the garlic is roasted and sweet, you can add a lot more garlic than usual, without overwhelming anyone's palate.

Of course, you can do a whole lot more with garlic than anyone can possibly blog. But this will give you a start!

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