Garlic: Garlic Recipes From Leading Chefs Around the World

photographs by Andy Cameron

Published by Periplus

159 pages, 2001

 


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The Stinking Rose

Reviewed by Monica Stark

 

Garlic is magic. Or, at least, it's close enough to being a magical substance that it can be credited thus. Think about it. Garlic has many -- some contradictory -- uses. Popularly, garlic is useful for deterring vampires from entering your home. A clove, I believe, is not enough in this instance: a wreath of the stuff is preferable. (Though never having encountered a vampire myself, I can't vouch for the amounts required. Though this might be due entirely to the large amounts of garlic I consume. Who knows?)

In areas where vampires are not prevalent, garlic is known to have natural antibiotic qualities. Some people (this writer included) take garlic tablets daily to help keep the immune system strong and ward off evil spirits in the form of cold and flu bugs.

Of course, Garlic: Garlic Recipes By Leading Chefs From Around the World has nothing to do with any of that. It concerns itself entirely with the best known use for this incredible herb: the flavoring of food. And here, as in other areas, garlic's uses are myriad and varied. As Garlic tells us:

Garlic has an infinite variety of uses in the kitchen: a squeeze of juice will flavour a salad dressing or a whole bulb can be added to a simmering rich stew. A small amount will enhance other flavours, while a large amount, used fresh, will make your mouth tingle.

While Garlic's introduction is informative it lacks spirit and real finesse (and vampires aren't mentioned even once.) This lack, also noted in Olive Oil, also published by Periplus and reviewed in January Magazine last year, is no doubt due to the fact that this series of books -- sterling in almost every other way -- lacks a single author or editor to bring personality and real life to them. So while Garlic is beautifully photographed and produced and the recipes included are worthy of that production and photography, it lacks that extra something that makes for a really wonderful book.

With that exception, Garlic is quite complete. The book includes chapters on soups, appetizers and snacks, vegetable dishes, pasta and rice, fish and seafood, poultry and meats. Having been, on occasion, served interesting sweet concoctions that included garlic, I might have asked for a chapter on desserts but -- realistically -- once you've tried garlic ice cream (and I have) you're simply not in a hurry to rush home and make it.

For me, the highlights in Garlic: Garlic Recipes By Leading Chefs From Around the World include the Black Mussels with Thai Red Curry Broth, even though garlic isn't a main feature of this dish (just half a teaspoon: For shame!), it's a unique enough twist on an old standby to be a useful addition to my repertoire. Though the book instructs its plating as an entree, the Sardines Filled with Pesto and Tomato Salsa are just the sort of loopy new canapé idea I look for when giving a party. This particular dish offers a wild presentation and the instructions are complicated enough to make it advisable for more advanced home chefs only. The Goat Cheese and Chard Cannelloni with Garlic and Rosemary Sabayon is, likewise, complicated and intricate enough that you wouldn't want the first time you tried it to be for a dinner party where you were trying to impress: a first date, say. Or your spousal unit's employer. However, making this one often enough to be good at it would be impressive for any occasion. Most of us, after all, are always impressed by the mere inclusion of a sabayon: it doesn't even have to be a good one!

Overall, the recipes included in Garlic: Garlic Recipes By Leading Chefs From Around the World are the sort that you'd expect to be served in the best western-style restaurants. While it's all gorgeous to look at, it doesn't necessarily mean most of us want to run out and make it. If you do aspire to that style of cooking -- and, of course, you love garlic -- then Garlic will be a good addition to your cookbook shelf or a loving gift for your own stinking rose. | June 2001

Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.