Garlic, like anchovies and raw onions, gets a bad rap. Just because it’s smelly or fishy or salty and stays on your breath doesn’t mean it’s not scrumptious.
Peanut butter eaters shouldn’t throw stones.
Even here in Italy, a land famous for garlic and anchovy eating, these wonderful foods have their detractors. I think the detractors are clueless.
Forget about the proven health benefits of garlic for the heart and the immune system. They are part of why garlic is good, but only a small part. It’s because they are heaven.
My first garlic epiphany is still a fond memory today. My mother had just ordered a plate of baked garlic cloves with our hamburgers and steak sandwiches in a basement bar in what little was left of the Italian-Irish neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.
I loved it.
And the bad breath? It’s only bad if you don’t like it (poor unknowing fools) and have not also eaten garlic in the same meal. The important thing is that you eat garlic together, then none of those involved will care.
I still remember a meal I cooked for my friends Erin and Bill when I first came back to Madison from Bologna in 1990. Oven-toasted rosemary potatoes, grilled sirloin with oregano and black pepper, and truffled champignon mushrooms.
Truffled mushrooms are as simple as it magical. Clean, dry and slice the mushrooms and get them ready. It’s going to be fast. Peel and crush a few cloves of garlic and get them ready. Get some good Italian olive oil up to frying temperature. Throw the garlic and turn the heat down low just before the garlic fragments turn crunchy and golden. Then slide the mushrooms and cook until they are soft, grey and have absorbed the garlic and the oil.
I like them straight up as a side dish, but they are great as an appetizer on toasted bread (with or without melted provolone cheese).
What made the dinner with Erin and Bill so memorable? The moment I tossed in the garlic in the yellow tuscan oil (yes, even back then you could find it in Madison) a mushroom cloud of garlic steam burst up and filled the studio apartment. I looked back and saw them both, noses up in the air and huge silly grins like dancing Peanuts characters in It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas.
They say blood is thicker than water, but garlic bonds.
To all my garlic brothers and sisters.