Cooking With Garlic

Garlic is one of the essential cooking ingredients in many popular dishes. Here's how to choose, prepare, and use them in your cooking.

Garlic is one of the essential cooking ingredients in Europe, Asia, and China. Although unpopular with some people who don't particularly go for the pungent smell that lingers in the mouth, garlic is the seasoning that best brings out the exquisite flavors of meats, fish, poultry and vegetables.

That pungent smell of garlic is due to its essential oils, which contain "allicin". These oils, together with other minerals present, such as potassium, zinc, calcium, and selenium, are also responsible for the garlic's popular therapeutic plant. Research has shown that garlic has antibiotic, anti-fungal and antiviral properties, making it a recommended natural remedy for ulcers, hypertension, cold symptoms, and even skin infections.

When buying garlic, choose bulbs that are firm, with skins that are clean and unbroken. Avoid bulbs that have damp, soft, or hollow cloves because they are nearing spoilage.

Freshly harvested garlic is preferred for their subtle flavor, especially for salads, but dried garlic is just as good. Keep them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place -- moisture will cause them to sprout, and warmth will make them wither into dust. Braids of garlic are nice to look at, but be sure to use them before they start to lose their freshness.

There are several ways to prepare garlic. The easiest is: lay a clove on a chopping board; rest the side of a knife on it; press on the knife to smash the clove; pull away the loosened the skin; chop the flattened clove coarsely or finely as desired. You can also use a garlic press to squeeze a peeled clove. The finer garlic is prepared, the stronger the taste. Remove any green sprouts because these give a bitter taste.

Chopped raw garlic can be used to season salads, cooked meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Crushed garlic can also be immersed in oil for dressing, or in vinegar and soy sauce for dipping.

To minimize the lingering garlic breath and pungent taste in the mouth, chew peppermint, parsley, or thyme immediately after eating garlic.

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