Is there any kitchen aroma more appetizing than sliced onions, green peppers and freshly minced garlic sauteing in olive oil? Throw in some chopped tomatoes and just about anything else you want and you’ve created a feast fit for the gods. Call it whatever you wish, pasta or pizza sauce, or, with the pasta added in it might be goulash, Johnny Marzetti, or All-American casserole. Add beans and you have the base for chili, taco soup and a variety of ethnic foods. Savory spices are a must and there you have it, you’ve turned out a dish that can’t be beat.
The secret, of course, is to use more than enough onions and green peppers (for maximum flavor use only the green ones) and a whole lot of fresh garlic. The fragrance alone will pull people in off the streets or, worst case scenario, drive them away permanently.
Before I retired from my kitchen due to advanced age and infirmities, my claim to fame was my personal guarantee that I could give anybody heartburn. They’d also get lectured on the health benefits to be gained from my favorites. Garlic is especially rich in nutrients.
Growing up in the upper Midwest, I learned to cook from my mother, grandma and many aunts, all of whom were remembered as excellent cooks. I dutifully followed their methods: Onions? Sure, daringly dicing up as much as a whole teaspoonful for a recipe; Green peppers? Well, maybe they’d risk a slice or two in a very few dishes; Garlic? are you kidding? If they’d even heard of it they knew no one used it but the newest Americans and you couldn’t get near them for the lingering after-smell. Admittedly, second hand garlic odor can be pretty pungent unless you eat it too, in self defense.
Marrying into a family of equally good cooks, I felt right at home with my few skills until I got out into the world and realized what a difference a few spices and my three new favorites made in a meal. True, I was inclined to go overboard for a while there, and went through quite a few food fads.
My kids accused me at one time of never feeding them anything but liver and brussels sprouts. This was back in the day when liver was known to be good for us because of the iron content. I still like brussels sprouts, sorry, kids. My cooking was already being liberally flavored with onions, green peppers and garlic, but sometimes enough is enough.
My husband was always up for anything and went along with most of my fads, being as fond of the big three veggies as I was. Garlic being his favorite, but even he had his limits. I recall a time when I was in the throes of my “only the healthiest of basic foods” kick. Our meals began to get a little boring and monotonous.
One evening, after sampling everything on his plate, he stood up from the table, walked over to the sink and scraped the whole mess into the disposal without saying a word.
I guess a bowlful of mixed dark green leaves, with eight or more chopped veggies added, including my Big Three, as I now called them, splashed with a little balsamic vinegar, couldn’t really be called a salad. Plain poached chicken breasts didn’t do a whole lot either for a man who grew up on breaded, deep -fried everything. I always had to learn my lessons the hard way.
Somewhere along the way, I’d been gifted with a clever little domed pottery garlic cooker to be used in the microwave. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet when that dear man decided to experiment without my knowledge.
We were in the habit of having Bloody Marys with a group of friends on Sunday mornings, taking turns in each others’ homes, followed by brunch in a favorite restaurant. The gang was arriving at our place one Sunday as usual. I assumed my busy-body husband was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the drinks as everyone got seated.
He did make a mean Bloody Mary and was just passing them around when a tremendous explosion from the kitchen had us all jumping out of our seats. Fortunately we had the the vodka to calm our nerves as we looked around in confusion.
He’d decided to try out the garlic cooker, hadn’t bothered to read the instructions, and put the biggest bulb he could find in the microwave, turned it on full blast and come in to pass out drinks. It turned out that he should have sliced the bulb open across the top first so each clove was free to steam as it cooked.
The microwave was full of pottery shards and garlic shreds clinging to every surface, top, sides and inside the glass door. The smell was overwhelming, to say the least. He spent most of the afternoon cleaning up the mess. The odor lingered for days.
So it is possible to get too much garlic. For normal purposes, though, nothing can take the place of my 3 favorite veggies, onions, green peppers and extra garlic simmering away on the back burner as I open a bottle of pinot noir. I do miss it, smell and all.