Some folks, like Count von Count, don’t like garlic. Some of us, like Iron Chef USA Chairman (for 2 episodes in 2001) William Shatner, love it. (The former Captain of the Starship Enterprise once said “Stop and smell the garlic! That’s all you have to do.”)

Garlic lovers have historically been the targets of abuse. Koreans, Chinese and Turks have been referred to – derogatorily – as “garlic-eaters” and Mr. Potter, the Scrooge banker of the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, accuses George Bailey of being a “nursemaid to a bunch of garlic-eaters” because George had befriended an Italian family. “You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch” – sung by Thurl (Tony the Tiger) Ravenscroft – was another Christmas reminder that garlic eaters “Stink, Stank, Stonk.”

On the pro-garlic side are countless testimonials of all the health benefits that this relative of onions, leeks, and shallots affords like preventing colds and lowering blood pressure.

Garlic has been around for a very long time. When Moses led the Israelites across the dessert he ran into a situation that plagues Scout Leaders and parents still. There came a time when folks got tired of the all-manna diet: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick.” (Numbers 11:5-6)

Allium sativum has many culinary benefits. At the beginning of our garlic alphabet is Aioli. This is basically a garlic mayo from the Provence region of France where garlic is a good luck charm and when eaten on New Years Eve ensures good luck throughout the year. (Yes! To double your chances of a good year ahead drop a dollop of aioli on your Hoppin’ John the next day!) Another famous Provençal dish is 40 Garlic Cloves Chicken.

Our favorite use of garlic is with its soul mate sweet basil in a pesto from Genoa in Northern Italy. And where would we be without Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Garlic French Fries, Garlic Bread, Scampi (shrimp in garlic butter), Aglio Et Olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil) or Garlic Ice Cream?

Garlic Ice Cream hails from Gilroy, California, the “Garlic Capital of the World” and home of the upcoming yearly Garlic Festival. You will also find it served at The Stinking Rose (another old name for our beloved bulb!), an all-garlic restaurant in San Francisco. A bit closer to home is the Dragoon Garlic Festival in southeastern Arizona.

How To Handle Garlic Restaurant chefs use a quick-but-fingers-still-smelly method: use the flat of your chef’s knife – with the blade facing away from you – and rather gently smash – not pulverize – a clove and then separate the skin and the garlic. Now that I’m not in such a hurry I like to use a silicone tube which leaves the clove intact and rubs off the clove’s skin. Also handy is a garlic press where you insert the clove and use an attached plug to force the garlic pulp through a strainer, leaving the skin behind. I use a press when I am making a salad dressing but the silicone tube for everything else. The press leaves a lot of flavor layers behind with the skin.

A Very Useful Garlic Recipe Roasting garlic dramatically tames its “garlickyness.” Thus you have a world of flavor available even if you don’t consider yourself a fan. It is wonderful in soups, dips, dressings and spreads. We use a terra cotta Garlic Roaster to keep the bulb moist while roasting. We’ve put a recipe for Roasted Garlic from Sweet Basil Cooks – A Second Helping on our website.

Just as garlic does, our American treasure Will Rogers makes everything – even blogs – better so we close with a quote of his from a visit to Gilroy, the above-mentioned Garlic Capital of the World where 90 percent of America’s garlic is grown and processed. Will said it was “the only town in America where you can marinate a steak by hanging it on the clothesline.”