Product Test #6 – Garlic, This Way and That

Oh my gosh! Look at this! she declared while triumphantly waving a whole garlic clove impaled on the end of her fork. We all admired it as if she’d found a pearl in an oyster, then she popped it in her mouth, swooned with delight at its creamy deliciousness and dove back into the plate of garlic truffle fries to find another.

Not everyone reacts this way when finding a mass of allium sativum in their meal, but cooked, whole garlic cloves are actually as mild as milk toast. Garlic’s other forms (mashed, crushed, grated, minced, chopped, sliced) are stronger in flavor. Just how strong is determined by the amount of disruption done to the garlic’s cells. The more they are ruptured the more potent the garlic is.

You can transform garlic cloves to any of these forms with a knife. Or you can try out one of the many gadgets available that make working with garlic easier or funner. Presses, twists, cubes, tubes or mortar and pestles are a few products you’ll find on the shelves at kitchensink.

PUT TO THE TEST: zak! Designs Garlic Tube Peeler + Garlic Cube by Endurance

One of my husband’s favorite dinners is aglio et olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil). I could make it blindfolded, but don’t for obvious reasons. The basic recipe I use is this one from Lidia Bastianich: Click here. I modify the dickens out of it, which I will explain below, but here you can enjoy listening to Lidia and Martha Stewart’s witty banter (I think Martha is mad at Mario Batali) as well as their tips and techniques.

The recipe calls for ten cloves of sliced garlic. I use twelve. There’s a reason but I’ll tell you later.

For slicing, I’m testing the Garlic Cube by Endurance. It’s a fun little gadget for slicing and coarse chopping. It requires the garlic cloves to be peeled before using so I’m also testing out the zak! Designs Garlic Tube Peeler (ZDGTP)

Garlic Tube
The ZDGTP works perfectly. Just insert a clove of garlic into the tube, roll it back and forth on the counter while applying a little pressure and the papery skin falls off. Of course, you could whack your cloves with a chef’s knife or some other large, flat, heavy bottomed surface (don’t go there), but the clove will get crushed and won’t retain its shape for slicing. Plus, you’ve just ruptured more cells resulting in stronger garlic flavor.
A couple pointers on the ZDGTP: Multiple cloves are tricky because of their size differential. I’d stick with one at a time. And it takes a little practice to figure the amount of pressure to apply, but it’s not rocket science, and it’s certainly not political science…is it food science? My point is that it’s not hard. In fact, this is a great gadget for kids to use to help in the kitchen. Although, kids are generally good at science. Anyhew…
Garlic the slice side
The peeled garlic clove is positioned in the side of the Garlic Cube with the slicing blades. Close the top and boom! the sliced garlic gathers in the awaiting receptacle.
Garlic the cube
This garlic is a little thicker than I would generally knife slice it, but the recipe is forgiving, as am I, so it will work and I quickly finished off the remaining cloves. WARNING: I pinched my thumb in the Garlic Cube when I spaced out to the rhythmic crunch of the garlic. I swore a little and it was numb for a couple hours, but it was definitely operator error.
Next, I tried the chopping ability of the Garlic Cube by using the opposite side and repositioned the receptacle to catch the garlic. Again closing the top over the peeled clove, which boom! created short, thin strips. Hhhhhhhmmmmm. Now how often does a recipe call for julienned garlic? Resourceful me ran it through a second time and it resulted in the coarsely, chopped garlic I was looking for.
garlic chopped & sliced
Once the garlic was prepped, I started the pasta.
A few tips on the recipe (again here is the link: Click here.) You’ll need 2 cups of pasta cooking water as an ingredient pretty quickly, so make sure and get your pasta boiling and cooking first thing. I reserved the 2 cups of cooking water, then tossed the drained, cooked, al dente pasta in olive oil to prevent sticking while I finished the sauce. Since the recipe calls for the addition of olive oil at the end, I just omitted it. And that pasta is going to cook more, so be sure to keep it on the al dente side (Martha will translate that term on the video).
This recipe is adaptable like nobody’s business. Lidia talks about adding clams and I, myself, have added endless combinations of shrimp, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, bell pepper, basil, capers, peas, broccoli, mushrooms, parmesan, etc. Tonight, I will be omitting the parsley and basil, which I forgot to pick up at the grocery store and would kick myself for if I hadn’t already pinched my thumb. That’s punishment enough for now. And, I’ll throwing in raw salmon, asparagus and red bell pepper.
garlic second to end
Gorgeous! But, ten cloves of sliced garlic are too mellow for Mr. Sutter, so I crush two additional cloves into the mix and let it meld for a couple minutes. The results are delicious and leftovers are cherished.
garlic end
My thoughts on the garlic gadgets? Love the zak! Designs Garlic Tube Peeler. I will use it a couple times a week. As for the Garlic Cube, I don’t think I’d use it unless I needed to slice six or more cloves of garlic. However, it was fun, it did what it said it would do and I think it’s also a great kids-in-the-kitchen gadget. Although my daughter took a cooking class when she was 8-ish and was given a real knife to use. I couldn’t watch, but I suppose it’s no worse than scissors or a grater or a car, they have to learn how to safely use these things at some point. Anyhew…
All for now, from kitchensink
NOTE FOR COOKING PASTA: I hate to be Miss Bossy Pants, but I’m going to be, so, sorry. When you cook pasta, you’ve got to use a lot of water. There is no such thing as too much. I know it’s heavy, but get a big kettle out. I know lots of water takes a long time to boil, but you can do squats or something while it heats up. Just don’t watch it or it will never boil. NEVER. Nev. Er. Add salt to the water so it tastes like the ocean and bring it to a vicious boil. Not a half-assed boil. A full-assed boil. Then add the pasta and immediately give it a stir so it won’t stick. Then, in about 30 seconds, give it another stir. A minute later, stir it again. Like a baby, the early stages of pasta development are crucial. Eventually each strand will be independent of each other, but rest assured they will work well as a group in your bowl. And I agree with Lidia on not adding oil and using the cooking time recommendations on the package.
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