Paul Scorvino slicing garlic in Martin Scorsese’s Good Fellas
Cooking with Garlic
Lots of people think that all Italian food MUST be made with tons of garlic. That’s a myth started by Italian restaurants that served mostly non-Italians. Garlic is a useful aromatic. It makes certain recipes taste better but it should never overwhelm the dish.
Sauteing it slowly and over low heat is the best way to get its flavor. It softens but doesn’t brown. A hint of golden color is fine but brown means burnt and bitter. Minced garlic cloves burn more quickly then sliced, so sliced is easier to work with. Large chunky slices are useful sometimes because you can see them and avoid eating them (if you want to).
Everybody knows I’m into kitchen gadgets so at Christmas and birthdays I get some interesting ones. Here are two that are basically miniature mandolins for garlic. They both work well and make easily make thin, even slices.
A micro-plane is quick and convenient. It makes a fine pulp. A garlic press does the same but eliminates the garlic fibers and adds a more gentle flavor.
. . . or you can do it like Paul Scorvino with a razor or use a standard utility knife the old fashioned way like my mother and aunts did. A sharp knife and years of practice is all you’ll need.
Pepperoncini don’t have the intensity of jalapenos but still provide a good sparkle to many dishes. Wash, dry and place fresh (not pickled) green pepperoncini in an open work basket or string them together and hang them (out of direct sunlight). They’ll eventually turn dark red and become dry and brittle.
– Dried Pepperoncini Paste #1 -Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil; add 3 cloves of garlic and 10 crumbled dry peppers (remove stem, core and some seeds). Keep the heat low and don’t burn it. When the peppers and garlic darken a little put everything, including the oil in a food processor with a teaspoon of salt and grind until it’s a paste. Add more oil if needed. Put it back in the pan and heat until it dries. This works as a condiment on various dishes where you’d normally sprinkle red pepper flakes.
– Dried Pepperoncini Paste #2 -Start with dried pepperincini. Take off the stems and soak in water overnight – include seeds and ribs. Drain well and put in food processor with oil. Chop and add oil until it’s a paste. One suggested use: Add paste and some pasta water to pan when making Pasta Aglio e Olio (pasta w/ garlic & oil). Finish cooking pasta in the sauce and serve with toasted breadcrumbs.
– They’re great crumbled and fried with eggs,
– They can be eaten plain too. Remove the stem and the core of seeds. Give them a quick fry in hot olive oil. Their color will change from red to light brown. Let them cool and eat them like potato chips.
– Powdered pepperoncini– grind red pepper flakes in a blender until powered, Basilicata style. Be careful not to inhale when you uncover the blender or you’ll cough like a cat with a hairball. If you don’t dry your own peppers, you can used store-bought red pepper flakes for this one.
– One last suggestion – take one or two fresh green peperoncini and remove the stem and seeds. Cut it into pieces small enough to fit into a bottle and then fill with virgin olive oil. Allow it a week or so to infuse and use this oil to drizzle on soups, meat or seafood dishes.