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COOL FOOD : The Three Faces of Garlic

August 20, 1992|MARIE SIMMONS | Simmons is author of the recently published "Rice, The Amazing Grain" (Henry Holt). This article originally appeared in Cooking Light magazine. and

From a test for infertility devised by the early Egyptians to a balm used by Muhammad to soothe scorpion stings, the medicinal benefits of garlic have been touted for centuries. It has been used to ward off vampires, soothe toothaches, fight infections and build strength. Much more recently, Japanese studies have suggested that garlic is helpful in treating stomach ulcers, and, more importantly (if controversially), it has been said to help lower blood cholesterol levels.

One attribute that is not disputed is garlic's ability to substitute for salt and stimulate the palate. When used properly, garlic is one of the very best friends a cook can have. And it has next to no calories.

Garlic has three distinct personalities: pungent and assertive when raw, mellow and sweet when cooked, and nutty and rich when caramelized or cooked at length. The flavor depends on how it is used. Crushed, minced or finely chopped, it releases pungent juices and is more potent than garlic that is halved, sliced or left whole. When cooking garlic, always use low to medium-low heat; it cooks fast, and if it burns, its flavor becomes bitter and unpleasant.

ROASTED GARLIC SPREAD

4 whole heads garlic

Remove white, papery skin from each head of garlic. Do not peel or separate cloves. Wrap each head separately in foil and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour. Remove and let cool 10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, separate cloves and squeeze garlic pulp into small bowl. Discard skins. Serve spread with toasted French bread. Makes about 1/4 cup.

PORK ROAST WITH GARLIC AND HERBS

1 (1 3/4-pound) lean, boneless pork loin roast

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Trim fat from roast. Combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt in small bowl and mash into paste. Rub garlic paste over surface of roast. Tie roast securely with string at 2- to 3-inch intervals. Place roast on rack coated with cooking spray, and place rack in shallow roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer into thickest portion of roast.

Bake at 400 degrees until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove string and cut roast into thin slices.

Makes 7 servings, at about 211 calories per 3-ounce serving.

BRAISED GREENS WITH GARLIC

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

8 cups loosely packed, torn romaine leaves

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Combine water, olive oil and salt in large Dutch oven and bring to boil. Add garlic. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until garlic is tender, about 10 minutes. Add romaine and toss well. Cover and cook over low heat 3 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 30 seconds more. Add vinegar and stir well.

Makes 4 servings, at about 34 calories per 1/2-cup serving.

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