Join us in welcoming our newest Cooking contributor, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen! In her bi-weekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan will demystify essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.
For the inaugural post, Susan whacks and chops her way to perfectly prepped garlic.
As a child, I loved to watch my mother seamlessly recreate the flavors of South India. She would invariably disrobe a few cloves of garlic and, thanks to her, I began a love affair with the spunky bulb at a young age. When I branched out on my own, I sought recipes that called for garlic, raw and punchy or tamed with a little heat. Thankfully, they were never hard to find as home cooks across the globe use the versatile aromatic to woo loved ones to the table.
Since then, garlic has been an indispensable ingredient in my kitchen. The versatile plant offers a range of flavors, depending on how it’s prepared. Raw garlic that’s been crushed, sliced, or finely chopped (minced) has an eye-popping intensity. In hummus, its sharp taste balances out the timidity of chickpeas and tahini. Briefly sautéing or stir-frying garlic mellows it, leaving it with enough flair to envelope other ingredients. Just think of Pad Thai. Cooking garlic longer warms and sweetens its flavor. It becomes as comforting in baked lasagna as cinnamon is in apple pie.
Garlic is also cheaper than many other flavor boosters from saffron to citrus. Heck, a whole bulb costs half as much as a can of soda, and because of its far-reaching flavor, lasts through weeks of cooking.
Availability & Storage
Garlic is easy to find and available year-round. When I go looking for it, I can be sure to find it in the produce section, shoulder-to-shoulder with a mound of onions. Low-maintenance and long-lasting, all it requires is a dry, cool corner and room to breathe. I store my stash in a small bowl on the kitchen counter.
How to Prepare
Not surprisingly, garlic is easy to prepare. Grab your chef’s knife and cutting board and follow these simple steps:
First, select plumb bulbs with smooth, unblemished skin. Run from any that are rooting.
Dig your fingers into the tissue-papery skin covering the bulb and pull out as many cloves as you need.
Hold the knife, pinching the base and cut off the root end of the clove.
Place the flat end of the knife over the clove and whack it to split and loosen the skin.
Again, hold the knife in one hand, pinching the base with your finger. Hold the root end of the clove with the other and thinly slice the clove.
To chop the clove, hold the knife over the slices with one hand. Place the other hand on the back of the knife. Rock the knife back and forth over the slices.
To mince it, continue the rocking motion until the clove is very finely chopped.
All photos by Susan Pachikara.
Are you new to cooking? Tell Susan what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!
Do you have tips for prepping garlic? Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest.