Shallots are for babies—onions are for men—garlic is for heroes

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French; sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek; soy sauce makes it Chinese; but garlic makes it good," said Alice May Brock (of Alice's Restaurant fame).

Garlic has been alleged to perform everything from curing countless illnesses to warding off evil spirits and vampires. The Egyptians fed garlic to the slaves who built the pyramids believing it increased their physical strength.

Garlic is a member of the lily family and is related to the onion clan. The most common types of garlic found in the U.S. are the American garlic (white) and the Mexican and Italian garlic, which have a purplish or rose-colored hue. The American is the most pungent. Choose heads that are firm, heavy for their size, and with all their cloves in tact. Store garlic in a cool dry place but never in the refrigerator!

Garlic Trivia

Americans consume more than 300 million pounds of garlic each year.

Garlic and onions are among the oldest cultivated food plants. Their culinary, medicinal and religious use dates back more than 6,000 years.

Chicago got its name from the American Indian word “chicagaoua” for the wild garlic that grew around Lake Michigan.

One farm in Monterey County California plants 2,000 acres of garlic and produces almost 25 million pounds annually.

Elephant garlic, much milder than regular garlic, is closely related to the leek, and thought by some to be the wild ancestor of the leek. The bulbs are very large, and can weigh more than one pound. Whole cloves can be sauted in butter and served as an appetizer.

Roasted Garlic

One of my favorite things to do with garlic is to roast it. Cut off the top of the head exposing the garlic and then sprinkle with olive oil, loosely wrap it in foil, and then place it in the oven at about 400 degrees until the cloves are soft. The end result is magnificent. Squeeze the garlic out of its paper jackets like thick butter and spread it on everything imaginable.

Spread it under the skin of a chicken before roasting; smother your steak or pork chops with it; or steam some vegetables and then cover them with the roasted garlic.

Garlic Bread

For totally guilt free garlic bread, simply spread roasted garlic on toasted slices of bread with no butter or oil. It won’t be very rich but it will still be delicious.

For semi-decadence, saut chopped garlic in olive oil or butter, and then spread it on bread and toast it. You’ll pick up some calories, but at least the olive oil, devoid of saturated fat, has some health benefits.

Bruschetta is a delicious, healthy and relatively low-calorie dish, requiring only a bottle of red to be transformed into a meal in itself. Chop up some ripe tomatoes; mix in an ample amount of fresh chopped garlic, basil, kosher salt and extra virgin olive oil. Lightly brush some thick, crusty bread with some olive oil, or leave it plain if you like, toast it in the oven, and then coat with the tomato/garlic mixture.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

6 oz. heavy cream

3 oz. butter

6-8 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the potatoes to a boil and simmer until tender. Finely chop the garlic and simmer it in the cream and butter for about three minutes. Strain the pieces of garlic from the cream. Pass the cooked potatoes through a food mill or a ricer (optional). Add the cream to the potatoes and mix until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. And yes, you can cut back on the amount of cream and butter if you wish.

Chicken in Garlic Sauce

People who don’t like garlic should not try this as written, but for us who do like it, it’s a real keeper!

1/4 cup olive oil

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

All-purpose flour for dredging

8 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 Tbsps. butter

2 Tbsp. cornstarch (optional)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Add the olive oil to a large saut pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and then dredge in the flour and place the flour-coated pieces in the pan; begin browning on one side over medium-high heat. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes, flip all the pieces over, and add the garlic. Continue to saut until the chicken is cooked through. Do not overcook. Remove the chicken, place in a covered pan and place in the oven to keep warm.

De-glaze the pan by adding the chicken broth, wine and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk constantly to make a smooth sauce. Add the butter and cook just long enough to blend. The sauce should be slightly thick. If the sauce is a bit thin, thicken it up by adding a little cornstarch dissolved in water. Place the cooked chicken back in the sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Sauted Garlic and Greens

Swiss chard is a heart-healthy leafy green that is an excellent source of calcium.

6 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

16 cups (packed) stemmed and roughly chopped Swiss chard (about 5 large bunches)

1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

In large skillet over medium-low heat, heat garlic and oil until garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside.

Place greens, red-pepper flakes and salt into the skillet. Using tongs, turn greens until wilted enough to fit in pan. Raise heat to medium and cover. Cook 7 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Transfer greens to a colander to drain.

Return greens to pan and toss with reserved garlic and oil mixture. Makes 8 servings.