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In Season Now: Garlic

Vampires loath it. But ancient Greeks and Romans ate it en masse, according to the book “Ancient Herbs in the J. Paul Getty Museum Gardens,” by Jeanne D’Andrea. While some hated it, many others believed it to have medicinal qualities and also to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

These days, garlic is used in a variety of cuisines and dishes to create a robust flavor. From garlic bread to roasted garlic mashed potatoes to even garlic ice cream—yes, it exists—there’s no doubt that people today enjoy garlic.

Garlic, a member of the Allium genus which also includes onions, shallots, leeks and chives, is an edible bulb that can add flavor and aroma to many dishes. In late spring or early summer its green shoots, known as garlic scapes, are lopped off to encourage the growth of the bulbs. The scapes, long with curly tops, are then sold in farmers markets throughout the region. They’re edible and offer an alternative to garlic in recipes. The earthy, distinctive flavor shares many notes with garlic but has its own fresh flair.

In winter, farmers bring to market the stores of garlic grown in warmer months. Check your local farmers market for delightful, locally grown garlic all winter.

When buying garlic, you want to look for tight bulbs, where the cloves are held firmly in. Garlic is best stored at room temperature. I have a garlic jar with air holes on the side for it, but you could also store it in an open container or basket. It just needs air circulation.

A final note: only peel the garlic when you’re ready to use it.

Aglio e Olio

Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

½ pound angel hair pasta, cooked

1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil or parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently until fragrant and just beginning to hint at golden brown—one to two minutes at most.

Pour the oil over the cooked pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and toss again. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve topped with cheese, if desired.

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