Of all the unattractive things that men have said to me on dates over the years, two stand out in my memory: (1) "I'm allergic to octopus." (2) "I don't like garlic." (Now to be fair, I've never avoided dating a man due to his culinary preferences, but garlic haters are crossing a defining line.)
While others' food vices might consist of champagne or chocolate, I covet the roasted (or not so roasted) cloves that other cooks might discard in the trash. In culinary school, I'd even steal leftover, lonely cloves from other classmates sheet trays. Golden brown and roasted through, I can easily eat a whole head in one sitting. I'm too addicted to worry about the after effects.
But I wasn't always so bold about my unabashed love of garlic. It actually wasn't until I learned of this aromatic's health-giving properties that I fully owned predilection for popping cloves. It was during my time working at a holistic nutrition school that more than one colleague offered up stories of surviving trips to India unscathed by the notoriously aggressive "delhi belly" or related ailments. How did they do it? Garlic—one to two raw cloves a day. Being both curious (and romantically unattached)) at the time, I eagerly experimented with taking raw cloves before bedtime. Not only did it make my stomach feel better after over-indulgent outings, but it boosted my overall energy incredibly. What's more, I discovered that by chopping the garlic finely and swallowing it like a pill (i.e. not chewing it at all), I could avoid any overly fragrant side effects.
The more I practiced this incredible garlic cure, the more I began to indulge my penchant for cooking with garlic. I sought out black garlic, garlic scapes and even purple varietals. I devised extra-garlic'y recipes for caesar salad or roasted veggies. And eventually, I lost any sense of shame about my garlic cravings. In fact, I've met some garlic addicts far more bold than I, who will crunch on raw garlic because they like the pungent burn.
Now, this is hardly the most attractive habit for a young lady to disclose, but I've learned that I'm one of many, many garlic lovers out there. True, some people are overly sensitive to this particular species of allium, but it's always worth a try.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy a wide range of garlic varietals:
- Roasted soft or hard neck garlic: snap the neck or slice off the tips of the head. Roast at 400F on a sheet tray until cloves are soft and golden brown. Spread on bread or just pop the cloves like candy.
- Garlic scapes: shave with a vegetable peeler into long ribbons and stir fry with bitter greens. (Click here for full recipe.)
- Fried garlic chips. Slice garlic thinly. Pre-heat oil to 300F. Fry cloves for 12-15 minutes until crispy. Strain, let dry and sprinkle on anything you like!
- Black garlic: Use this sweet, soft fermented garlic to add a less harsh, umami flavor to your stir fry of choice.
- Garlic oil: Bring 3-4 cloves to a simmer in one cup of oil. Turn off heat and let cool. Use as a dip for breads or for future cooking projects. (It is also an excellent ayurvedic remedy for colds. During the winter season, drip a few drops into each ear before bed. Place a cotton ball in each ear to prevent the oil from leaking out while you sleep.
- Raw garlic: For a cure to digestive ailments, chop up one clove garlic very fine. Place in a shot glass. Fill glass 2/3 of the way with water. Swirl and throw back garlic. (Swallow, do not crunch with teeth.) Repeat until you have swallowed all the garlic.