My love of Allium sativum* isn’t lifelong, but it will surely last till the end of my days. In my Dutch and German-English grandparents’ and parents’ days, eaters of the bulb were of the lower immigrant classes, identified by their reeking, something my always-clean folks wished to avoid. Not till my widowed dad began taking me to Italian restaurants for food he learned to love in Rome during the war did I begin to taste the wonders I’d been missing, especially of garlic bread. On my own in college, especially cooking with roommate Wayne who managed a restaurant in summers, I began to throw the bulb in most everything I cooked. Things only went from bad to worse, and I was fortunate to meet a woman who shared my passion for the stinking rose (as well as much else).
So how can it be that only last week I learned about garlic paste? I learned about it as something Indian women use as a kitchen shortcut. It’s easy to make, although you have to be both persistent and encouraging, as those cloves do not go gentle into that good paste. Take a pound of peeled garlic cloves, put ‘em in a blender with 2 T oil and buzz. Here’s all you need (plus a spatula):
The shotglass in the middle contains 2 T of vegetable oil, not whiskey. But such is permitted on the side for the chef, given the wonderful thing you’re doing. A teaspoon of the resultant paste equals one large clove of garlic. Saves all that time spent peeling and chopping. Plus the garlic infuses much more efficiently, since the surface area to mass ratio of each particle is so much greater. The good-sized heads of garlic Busch’s sells me at 4 for 5 bucks weigh about 3 ounces each, or about 42¢/ounce. The pound jar of peeled cloves from Bombay grocery sells for $6.95, or a little over 43¢/ounce. Bombay Grocers on Packard south of town is 5 ½ miles away whereas Busch’s is just 2.3 miles away. I think I can afford the gas. Garlic paste is to bulb as hash oil is to leaf, crack is to cocaine, fentanyl is to morphine. Just as the cokehead snorts from a mirror to make sure no granule of product goes unconsumed, the pastemaker of course might be frustrated that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get all the paste out of the blender. Here’s my solution: pour 1 C each red wine vinegar and soy sauce into the vessel and throw the switch. You’ll be rewarded with with a brown foamy liquid that almost fills the blender. When you pour it into a jar to save as a start-up for some future marinade, the inside of the vessel is clean except for a little brown foam. I like it for mushrooms (see my simple recipe below).
Our latest discovery of the wonders of paste came when Kathy used it to make our usual Sunday brunch drink, vampire marys. I posted about these over a year ago https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/203. There you can find the original recipe out of The Stinking Cookook and our own ramp-up to make 64 ounces of mix just to have handy whenever you get that hankerin’. In our original recipe, the strainer of the shaker we use to mix each drink would get clogged with chunks of garlic. No more with paste. Smoove!
I’m sure we’ll be finding more uses for paste. I hope Bombay Grocers doesn’t run out of peeled cloves. Walmart used to offer bags of peeled garlic and would even deliver, but I haven’t been able to find it on their website for some time. I’ve heard Costco often has ‘em, but we let our membership lapse a few years ago. No doubt our already substantial consumption of the bulb will increase. Not only will our taste buds be happier, but I expect there will be other benefits. It seems it’s not just vampires garlic wards off. As the doctors Donma of Terkidag and Instanbul (Turkey) concluded in their article published online in June and in print last November** “Allium sativum may be an acceptable preventive measure against COVID-19 infection to boost immune system cells and to repress the production and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines as well as an adipose tissue derived hormone leptin having the proinflammatory nature.” Hey, it’ll probably help with the social distancing thing, too.
**Donma MM and Donma O. The effects of allium sativum on immunity within the scope of COVID-19 infection. Med Hypotheses. 2020 Nov; 144: 109934. Published online 2020 Jun 2. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.109934
some addenda as of 3/14/21
the garlic paste transformation works much better with a Cuisinart food processor. which can do 2 pounds at a time, with patience. But way better than my Waring blendor. You just have to put that extra 1/4 cup that can’t go back into the garlic jar.into the next marinade.
The same principal of maximizing the surface area to mass ratio of each particle. can be applied to the chili peppers. In our latest iteration, we took took the half cup of chili peppers we’d usually throw in, buzzed ’em in our spice grinder, leaving less than a 1/4 cup of stuff we threw in, starting with 1/2 C. We both thought the marinade looked much better, and loved the consequences.
One last tip, don’t marinate too long. After 4 hours or so, the ‘shrooms get a little mushy. They’ll still be very tasty, but they’re better al dente.