Nina’s Tips and Techniques: Garlic

I heard it’s not good to press garlic. Is that true?

Not necessarily. I would say it’s not always good to press garlic, but it does have its place. It all depends on how you are using it. Let’s back up… Garlic is full of oils, and those oils tend to burn at very low temperatures. So if you press your garlic and extract those oils, and then try to cook it you might burn the garlic, or it might impart bitterness into your dish. I like to press garlic into salad dressings or marinades where I want the garlic to sort of disappear. I also press it when I’m preparing a dish that is cooked very gently over low heat and the garlic is not added directly to oil or other fat. For recipes that start with “cook onion and garlic in olive oil” I tend to slice or mince my garlic.

Do I need to remove the big green thing in the middle of the garlic?MG 1969

That “big green thing” is the germ. When garlic is freshly harvested, you shouldn’t see any germ in the center of each clove. As cellared garlic ages through the year it begins to germinate, like any other bulb. When the germ becomes tough or green I do like to remove it as it can give off a bitter taste. I slice each clove lengthwise down the center and remove the germ with a paring knife. Easy and worth it!

Some garlic is so hard to peel. Are there any secrets?

Of course there are! There’s the old smash it with a knife technique— not my favorite because it makes the garlic release all of its oils. My favorite is to take two small stainless steel bowls that are identical in size, place the garlic cloves inside one and then put the open sides of the bowls together to create a sphere. Pinch the edge of the bowls with your fingers and shake the sphere. When you open it all the papers just fall off the garlic! Yay!

MG 1982MG 1977