Preparing Garlic - crush, mince, grind, etc.

publickmanMarch 18, 2013

Saturday we had people over for Kevin's birthday, and one of the things I made was a garlic/lemon/dill dip for potato chips that was everyone's favorite, although I was not sure why. The way I make it (and I will not vary this) is to mash a couple of large cloves of garlic with some Kosher salt in a mortar & pestle until I get a smooth paste. I found out later that Nancy Silverstone swears by this method, but I picked it up at a friend's house in Mexico City. It seems to affect the flavor of the garlic, although not necessarily as some people report.

Do you use this method with garlic? If not, then how do you prepare raw garlic for a dish that is not cooked, such as pesto or Caesar Salad? I have to admit that I have been chopping garlic for pesto before adding it to a mini-FP, and I simply add chopped garlic to a blender when I make Caesar Salad dressing, but not when I make Ranch Dressing, which is basically what my potato chip dip recipe is.

To continue the recipe for the dip:
Add ground black pepper to the mortar & pestle, and grind that with the garlic and salt. Then transfer that to a bowl and add fresh Meyer lemon juice, minced dill, sour cream, and mayo. I used about a tablespoon of dill, juice of one large lemon, and maybe 1/2 cup each of sour cream and mayo - I do not measure those. After the party, I served the dip with baked potatoes, and my house guest finished it off!

It is my contention that mashing the garlic with the salt in the mortar & pestle changes its flavor, and I know that there are those who agree with me, but what do those of you who have tried it think? To me, it is hardly any more effort, and I generally start a simple vinaigrette salad dressing this way as well. I personally think it makes the garlic more mellow, but some people seem to think that it makes the garlic more intense. My houseguest (Richard, from San Francisco) says that he cannot eat raw garlic, but he ate this!

I am anxiously awaiting the next garlic season so that I can buy a new braid.


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Well, I don't go to quite the effort as you Lars but do something similar. I take peeled cloves, sprinkle them heavily with course Kosher salt then take the flat side of my cleaver and mash the two together until I have a paste. Then, scoop the paste up with the knife and dump it into whatever I've making. I think it still tastes like raw garlic though. I've always heard that the smaller the garlic's cells the more intense the flavor. When I just want a mellow background note I toss in a peeled whole clove that I've whacked with my knife and retrieve it after a short amount of cooking. For pesto, I roughly chop by hand and toss it into the FP. For salsa, I mince by hand also.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 4:29PM
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Lars, I use to do it the same way that Tricia describes. But I replaced that method with the microplane about 14 years ago. Grating a garlic clove on a microplane will give you a paste.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 4:50PM
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Tricia, smashing the garlic with a knife and then mashing it with salt is essentially the same as what I'm doing. I've done it that way too, but I found it neater to do in the mortar & pestle.

Ann, for me, I am afraid of grating my fingers if I grate garlic on a microplane, but I do have a garlic grater that I almost never use - it's scarier than the microplane, but I do use it for ginger.

I just like to pound things with the pestle! I think some methods are based on what feels good, and there is something primeval about the mortar pestle that appeals to me, plus it is made out of Carrera marble, which I love.


This post was edited by publickman on Mon, Mar 18, 13 at 17:06

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 5:04PM
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Lars, I've never done it that way before, but I picked up a mortar and pestle at a flea market a few months ago and can't wait to try it out.

What is your mortar and pestle made out of? Mine looks like marble, but it was only 10 dollars, so I'm sure it's not real marble.... it's very heavy and so far I've only used it to make hummus, crush nuts, and crush pink Himalayan salt.... typically if I pound hard enough to do any damage, the ingredients shoot across the room so I haven't made friends with my mortar and pestle yet and am always looking for something useful do to with it... thanks for posting your method!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:09PM
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I've had a mortar and pestle for about 30 years now. It's some kind of greenish stone and heavy as all get-out. About the only thing I use it for is to smush (I don't pound in it) lots of fresh garlic, kosher salt, and pepper to make a paste that I spread on very thinly sliced pork tenderloin. Let the pork sit for several hours, then saute, deglaze with white wine, add some red pepper slices (I use jarred pimento), and serve over rice (I use Vigo yellow rice) and add slices of lemon to serve. I don't have the recipe in front of me, but I think that's all there is to it. The garlic paste flavors the pork so nicely, and it's a good, very colorful dish.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:21PM
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Bobby, I'm sure your mortar and pestle are marble - they're really not that expensive! I make hummus in the food processor because I make large batches, and we go through it rather quickly - it's Kevin's favorite snack. Try my ranch dip recipe and see what you think. Here's a list of the ingredients that I use:

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced (large stems removed)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream

Garlic paste sounds like it would be good with pork. I sometimes mix garlic and ginger with pork for a Chinese flavor.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:51AM
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Lars, I do it the same way as you. Only difference is I use whole black peppercorns, freshly dry roasted. The salt, apart from flavour, is used an abrasive in mortars to aid with the crushing. Good for chillies, ginger etc too. And depending what I'm preparing, also add a small slug of EVOO to the mix.

I also like the tactile use of a mortar/pestle rather than a food processor!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:37AM
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I've tried using whole black peppercorns, but they jump out of the mortar, much as Bobby described, and so I grind them just before adding them. I do have another mortar and pestle that I can use to crack the peppercorns before grinding them, but I keep forgetting to use it. The pestle part is mushroom shaped and almost fills the pestle, so that ingredients cannot jump out. I've never roasted peppercorns, and so I'll have to look for unroasted ones so that I can try that.

I also like the tactile use of the mortar & pestle, and I get a paste that I cannot get from the FP.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 12:34PM
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