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Keep vampires, solicitors away with garlicky dishes

Whether it's oozing out of the pores of the person next to you or on the breath of your date, the smell of garlic is undeniable. Perhaps this is why it's thought to ward off vampires, mosquitos, or other unwanted pests. However, this member of the lily family (akin to leeks, chives, onions, and shallots) adds a delicious level of flavor to foods and gives a punch to an otherwise flat-tasting meal.

It is impossible not to notice the versatility and power of garlic – it can be found in everything from a chicken cooked with 40 cloves to toast smeared with roasted garlic to quick a chimichurri or pesto sauce. When garlic is crushed, sliced, grated, or puréed, its flavor becomes more pronounced, whereas whole roasted heads of garlic or whole cloves will be milder.

Just remember that when cooking minced or chopped garlic, it's important to keep a close eye on it because it can burn or brown quickly; if overly browned, it will become bitter and add an unpleasant flavor to dishes. When purchasing garlic, look for hard cloves that are intact and stored in open air (not refrigerated). At home, keep garlic away from other foods, as they will easily pick up the garlicky smell.

Homemade pizza is a great way to experiment with new flavors and tastes. Taking a little help from the store and using pre-made pizza dough leaves time to get creative with the toppings. For this pizza, I combined savory roasted garlic with earthy mushrooms, spinach, and fresh cheese. Roasting the garlic mellows out the flavor considerably, but still leaves you with an undeniable garlicky taste. Feel free to switch up the ingredients to include your favorite veggies and cheeses — the beauty of pizza is that anything goes.

– Carly Goldsmith

 

Roasted Garlic Pizza With Mushrooms and Spinach

Yield: 2 servings

1 head garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for pizza

Flour, for dusting

1 package whole-wheat pizza dough, at room temperature

1/4 cup pizza sauce

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/4 cup ricotta

10 cremini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed

1/2 cup chopped spinach, cooked

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel the outer layers of the garlic skin away, leaving the cloves intact. Cut 1/4- to-1/2 inch off the top of the garlic head, exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

3. Remove garlic from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Once cooled, remove the skin from the cloves and mash into a paste.

4. Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees.

5. Using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll out the pizza dough to desired shape. (Since I was baking on a cookie sheet, I made a rectangular pizza, but any shape works.) Place dough on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread roasted garlic evenly onto the dough. Then, spread the pizza sauce evenly over the dough. Next, top with cheeses, mushrooms, and spinach.

6. Bake in oven until crust is golden and cheese is hot and bubbly, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into slices and serve immediately.

Consider this your easy, weeknight meal-for-two for those of you not concerned about "garlic breath." Serve it with a simple salad of arugula with Parmigiano-Reggiano dressed with lemon and olive oil to round out the meal.

– Maryse Chevriere

Pan-seared Talapia with Garlic Oil

Yield: 2 servings

4 cloves garlic, finely diced

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tilapia fillet

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 lemon cut into wedges

Chives, finely diced

Procedure:

1. In a pan over low heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove the garlic bits from the pan and set aside in a small dish, then increase the heat under the pan to medium.

2. Season the tilapia on both sides with salt and pepper. Sauté the fish in the garlic oil, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with a spritz of fresh lemon juice, chives, and a spoonful of the sautéed garlic on top.

This fresh, easy pasta is amazing in the summer, with the classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella in an uncooked sauce. But it can easily be made year-round to enjoy that same garlicky taste.

– Jessica Chou

Spaghetti alla Checca

Yield: 2 servings

8 ounces thin spaghetti

1 clove garlic, chopped

8 ounces cherry tomatoes (or 1/2 pint), halved

1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cubed into 1/4-inch pieces

4 leaves basil, torn

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 tablespoon butter

Procedure:

1. Boil water and cook thin spaghetti in salted water until al dente.

2. Combine the garlic, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in a medium bowl. Mix with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

3. When pasta is ready, toss with the butter to melt it, then combine with the tomato mixture. Serve the pasta warm.


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