Last year Mark Bittman
wrote about the pleasures of peeled garlic for the Times, and boldly proclaimed his love of the garlic that comes by the handful instead of the bulb.
This was such a relief to me. I had been guiltily buying little plastic packets of garlic cloves at my local produce stand. I use huge amounts of garlic when I cook, especially in some international foods, and the routine of peeling garlic had gotten old. But until Bittman declared it a worthy shortcut, I felt a little secretive about the way I supported my garlic habit. No delicate, papery bulbs in my kitchen, unless I'm making roasted garlic. No - I take cloves by the dozen out of the plastic box, and now I feel vindicated.
Some tips, however: I avoid the plastic jars in the regular grocery section, stuffed with garlic from who knows when and who knows where. I look instead for freshly packed trays of peeled cloves at my produce stand or farmers market. Also, I check for brown spots and any trace of slime.
In cooked dishes I do not taste a difference between these pre-peeled cloves and the ones I painstakingly remove from a bulb. In uncooked dishes and for roasted garlic, I do still try to use bulbs. But not always...
What about you? Are you a hardcore garlic bulb peeler and eater? Or do you indulge with me in the handfuls of garlic from the styrofoam trays?
Kitchen Art! Detail of Partially Peeled Head of Garlic, by Emily Zasada