June 2011 Prepared Foods – Garlic is a fascinating spice. It plays a subtle, supporting role in countless dishes around the world--dishes that would not be called “garlicky,” but in which garlic’s presence is certainly essential. This spice dominates other foods, such as garlic bread, garlic butter, garlic sauce, garlic soup and garlic salad. The annual Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., has even showcased more unusual fare, such as garlic ice cream! This year’s 33rd festival will be held July 29-31, 2011. (See www.gilroygarlicfestival.com.)

In its journey westward and southward from its native Siberia, garlic became pervasive in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asiatic cooking, and from there it moved throughout the New World. Americans were perhaps slower to embrace it, but the advent of convenient, dehydrated versions helped establish its foothold here.

Pictured here is a minestrone soup that illustrates how a classic dish can change with the use of garlic. The Genovese believe garlic should star in minestrone. They add a garlic paste that is not unlike their famous pesto sauce, in that it is made with basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese (lacking only pine nuts). This goes in with the last of the vegetables for the final minutes of simmering.

Getting closer to garlic’s origins, one finds a “poor man’s caviar” in the Caucasus that depends on this pungent herb. This is a mixture of chopped, cooked eggplant, chopped onions, peppers and tomatoes, moistened with olive oil and generously laced with garlic. Lemon juice, salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper complete the flavoring. This “caviar” is served on small pieces of pumpernickel or sesame wafers.

In Puerto Rico, the people love a pot roast in which the meat is first rubbed heavily with garlic and black pepper and then simmered several hours in a mixture of vinegar, dry sherry and ripe olives.

Hui Kuo Jou is a twice-cooked pork dish from China which calls for the equivalent of six cloves of garlic. Sweet red peppers, hot red peppers, bean sauce, sugar, sherry and scallions finish the flavor profile. The pork is first simmered in water until tender, then thinly sliced and, finally, stir-fried in a wok with the vegetables and seasonings. pf

Pilot recipes for these garlic specialties had originally been adapted exclusively for Prepared Foodsby the test kitchen of the American Spice Trade Assoc. (FR0692)

Garlic paste
2 tsp instant minced garlic
2 tsp water
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp basil leaves, crushed
1 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1/4-tsp  salt

Soup
2 qt chicken broth
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 1/2cups diced potatoes
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup fresh green beans, cut in 1in pieces
2 cans (19oz each) white kidney beans (cannellini), drained and rinsed
2 cups sliced zucchini
1 cup frozen peas

To prepare garlic paste: In a cup, combine garlic and water; set aside to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in cheese, olive oil, basil, butter and salt until combined; set aside.
To prepare soup: In a stockpot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add cabbage, potatoes, celery and green beans; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are nearly tender, 10-12 minutes. Add kidney beans, zucchini, peas and reserved garlic paste; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes longer.

Yield: 6-8 portions, 14 cups