Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!
Garlic is truly an international food. It is said that garlic was a staple food of the ancient Egyptians. The Romans and Italians have used it for centuries as have the Chinese, Indians and many other peoples around the world.
Garlic is a versatile and healthy food -- said to lower cholesterol and have many beneficial effects on the heart and circulatory system. I can't say for certain that this is true, but I can say that garlic is one of my favorite root vegetables and has been since I could crawl. In fact, when I was a toddler, I used to get into the cupboard under my grandmother's sink, steal heads of garlic from a brown paper bag, and eat them whole. No one seemed to mind much except when it came time to pick me up! I imagine I smelled pretty strong of garlic nearly all the time when I was a young child.The last full weekend in July is the time for a favorite event in Gilroy, California, "The Garlic Capitol of the World." This event is the Gilroy Garlic Festival. According to the growers in Gilroy, a very high percentage of the garlic used throughout the U.S. is grown in Gilroy.
This event is popular with locals and tourists alike, and the event draws about 80,000 people per day during the 3 day event. Famous chefs do cooking demonstrations, there are many arts and crafts, live music, and then there is the famous cookoff. The recipes from last years cookoff can be found at their website.The winners from this year's contest will probably be posted to their website in the near future. Several years ago, I saw Martin Yan from the television show "Yan Can Cook" at the festival and bought one of his books. He was very entertaining and is quite a talented chef. Narcie David is another personality who often attends the event.
There are several types of garlic, each having a unique flavor and strength. My favorite is the garlic with thick purple skin. From my understanding, this particular type of garlic originated in Italy, however much is grown in Mexico as well as in Gilroy. This garlic tends to have larger cloves and a much stronger flavor than most other types of garlic.
There is also the more common white skinned garlic. This type isn't as strong as the purple skinned garlic, and the cloves aren't as large. However, it is a good garlic for all purpose cooking. And then there is elephant garlic which is much milder than the other types, yet much larger. Elephant garlic is excellent for garlic mashed potatoes and for roasting, as the flavor is not overpowering.
This month, I am presenting a few of my favorite garlic recipes and giving a few suggestions on how you might use garlic to enhance your cooking skills.
The recipes presented this month are from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests.
Now, on to the recipes!
- 1 whole flank steak (about 3 lbs.), fat and membrane trimmed
- 1 head garlic
Cover the entire flank steak with a generous coating of table salt and hang to dry for 3 days. Make sure you hang it over a sink, as the salt will draw all of the moisture out of the meat while it is hanging. My grandmother used to hang it over a piece of string above her kitchen sink. After 3 days have expired, wash the salt off the meat with cold running water. Then, place the meat in a broiler oven for about 2 to 3 minutes per side to evaporate the remaining moisture.
Finally, allow the meat to cool, and with a meat tenderizer, pound the meat with cloves of garlic until completely shredded. The garlic need not be peeled, as the peelings will fall off during this process and can be easily picked off afterwards. The goal is to shred the meat completely. My grandmother used to use a mortar and pestal for this process, adding a new clove of garlic once the first one was used up.
Machaka can be eaten as is, a shredded beef jerky. Or, it can be mixed with scrambled eggs and salsa for a Mexican breakfast. It is an excellent light weight food to take on outings as well. It keeps very well without refrigeration. Enjoy!
- Yields: 6 servings
- Preparation Time: 3 days
- 4 heads garlic
- Olive oil
Cut the top off each head of garlic (not the root end) and brush the cut end with olive oil. Do not separate the cloves. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 1 hour. Remove from oven and serve.
Once the garlic has been roasted, the cloves will be easy to pluck out from the head. The cloves will be soft and can be used to spread on toast, or simply eaten as is. The flavor will be much milder than raw garlic. You might consider serving a roasted garlic head with crackers or celery sticks as an appetizer.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Preparation Time: 1 hour
- 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 clove elephant garlic
- 2 tbsp. butter
- Cream or milk
Place the potato chunks in a large pot and cover with enough water to cook. Add the clove of garlic. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain the water from the pot, reserving a little for mashing. Add the butter and mash with a potato masher, adding cream or milk until the desired consistency is obtained. Serve hot as an accompaniment with roast beef, turkey or chicken.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Preparation Time: 35 minutes
More tips and suggestions on using garlic:
- Before peeling raw garlic, smash the cloves with the side of a cleaver or broad knife. This brings out the juice and enables you to pick off the peeling very easily.
- Pierce a roast, steak or chicken with a paring knife and insert slivers of garlic into the meat prior to cooking. The garlic flavor will disburse into the meat giving it a very nice flavor.
- Add freshly chopped garlic to your favorite marinade prior to grilling. This works good for either meat or vegetables.
- Before roasting beef or pork, crush a clove of garlic and rub it over the surface of the meat prior to cooking.
- Before stir frying vegetables, noodles and meat, flavor the cooking oil with some chopped garlic by simmering for a few moments before adding the other ingredients.
- Add crushed garlic to some olive oil and let it stand at room temperature for several hours before using. Excellent for salad dressings! Warning: DON'T store this for longer than a day or two prior to use as botulism can grow in this medium resulting in serious illness or death!
- Rub crushed garlic on Romaine lettuce leaves prior to making a salad.
- Melt 1 cube of butter in a skillet with 6 cloves finely chopped garlic. Put this mixture on slices of French bread and toast in the oven until slightly browned. Serve hot! Yummy!