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Garlic is an indispensible kitchen companion. I have a theory (thinly disguised as a personal opinion with a view toward avoiding attack) that if you don’t like garlic, you’re not a good cook. To push the envelope even further, if you own a container of garlic powder you’re a lousy cook.

Let’s say you fall somewhere in between, though. You like a little mild garlic, but not more than once a week, and you share my contempt for those dried up little granular wannabes. Chances are you buy an occasional head of garlic, use one measly clove and find the rest of it molding in a plastic bag in that little compartment thingee in the door of your ‘fridge a month later. Furthermore, the one clove you did use ruined your social life for days. During introspective, analytical moments, you can still taste it.

Good news! You don’t have to be a victim of your own pathetic culinary incompetence any more!

When you buy a head of garlic, separate it into cloves. Peel them. NO!...not that way! Lay the cloves out on the counter, put the flat edge of a big knife on top of them and rap it smartly with your hand. The peels will slide right off. Now, put them in a glass jar with enough good olive oil to cover them, seal it and stick it in the ‘fridge. The cloves will stay fresh for a couple of months, and the oil will have a nice garlicky flavor suitable for salad dressings and sautees.

So, how do you mitigate the terrifying power of the mighty garlic? By slicing it instead of mincing or crushing. The stuff that makes garlic...well, garlic...isn’t active until the cell membranes are ruptured and the contents mix together. Slicing doesn’t open as many cells; ergo, milder flavor. If you like it medium strength, mince it. For the atomic blast, crush it. No matter which method you employ, you get better results if you don’t use the garlic right away. Let it stand for ten or fifteen minutes so the enzyme action can work.

Got garlic breath? My first impulse is to say, “So what?” But then my compassionate side kicks in and I tell you to chew a sprig of parsley after dinner. It helps a little, and it beats the heck out of mints or gum. Garlic breath is one thing...minty garlic breath is entirely another.

Just recently, the buzz around town is that garlic discourages a number of diseases. We know it has antibiotic properties, and some studies indicate it might be helpful in the prevention of certain cancers. Whether this is true or not (I’ve just checked all my walls, and I don’t see a medical degree anywhere), a little garlic now and then couldn’t hurt. By the way, did you know some people are so passionate about garlic, they make ice cream with it?