Garlic powder, garlic salt, garlic puree. They're all handy products for the garlic lover, but don't forget the virtues of whole fresh garlic cloves, even if you don't like to peel them. Sometimes they're an important ingredient, retaining their identity in the finished dish. James Sly, chef de cuisine of El Encanto Hotel at Santa Barbara, sautes garlic slices in oil until golden brown, then tosses them with fresh egg noodles, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ground black pepper. "It's one of those simple dishes that chefs really like," he says. And now is a good time to try it, because the garlic season in California is at its peak. This prime time continues from July through September.
Red raspberries are also plentiful, and supplies will remain heavy and prices reasonable for at least two weeks. The berries are on hand most of the year, thanks to shipments from New Zealand and Chile. But now markets are receiving the big crop from northern California, Oregon and Washington. Raspberries are fragile, so use them within a couple of days. To store, place them unwashed in a shallow pan lined with paper towels. Cover with more paper towels, then with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
One small change can make a big difference, as is the case with Wasa Crispbread's Falu Rye crackers. The makeup of the cracker is not the issue but the way it has been perforated. The little holes run crosswise and up and down so that the crackers can be snapped apart to make small squares for croutons, sticks for dips or smaller crackers. You can, of course, also use them whole, either plain or topped with cheese, meat, pickles, caviar or other tidbits.
Wasa crackers come from Filipstad, Sweden. The plant there produces 800,000 packages of crispbread a day and ships them to 50 countries. The brand name was adopted from Gustav Wasa, a 16th Century Swedish king who promoted the growing of rye as a healthful food. The Swedes must have listened closely because they eat an average of 13 pounds of crispbread per person each year, not to mention countless loaves of Swedish limpa and other rye breads. In Los Angeles, Wasa crispbread is available in most chain supermarkets.
Cook a potful of Uncle Ben's new Aromatica rice and you'll think you're at the movies with a bag of hot buttered popcorn. That's how aromatic this long grain rice is. The fragrance is natural to the strain, not the result of any seasoning. More expensive than Uncle Ben's Converted Brand Rice, Aromatica is softer and the grains are less separate when cooked. The rice is grown in the United States, most of it in Texas. The first shipments went out a month and a half ago, and the boxes should be on supermarket shelves now.