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The gourmet's touch of garlic -- more than just a hint

Garlic has been the object in the United States of a self-reversing snobbery. Twenty or so years ago people turned up their noses at anyone who had been eating the pungent, smelly herb. It was considered bad manners to use more than a whisper or a hint of the herb in home cooking.

Later it became acceptable in a few recipes such as in the garlic butter for escargots or shrimp scampi, and it was considered OK to rub a cut clove around the wooden bowl for salad, but that was about it.

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Today it's different. People are not only enjoying grlic more frequently, they're eating it in quantity. Chicken cooked with as many as 40 cloves of garlic is a favorite dish that gets even Julia Child's approval.

James Beard raves about Chez Pamisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., where one of his favorites is baked, aromatic whole cloves of garlic, served with crusty French bread and fromage fraiche, a young goat cheese creamed with a little yogurt.

People are eating roasted garlic, garlic sandwiches, and chocolate-covered garlic candies.

Gardeners are growing it. Home cooks have also been discovering the classic garlic sauces like French aioli, Italian pesto, and Greek skordalia.

There are cookbooks devoted solely to garlic recipes. There are garlic recipe contests and garlic clubs. There's even a garlic newsletter.

Promoting much of the interest in fresh garlic are the people of Gilroy, Calif., who call their town the garlic capital of the world and hold an annual garlic festival.

This small community, just 12 miles from the ocean, produces nearly 150 million pounds of garlic in its 90-mile radius. Their garlic festival is an unbelievable celebration.

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There are contests and costumes, music and opera, minstrels, puppeteers, and all kinds of entertainment. Displays include all kinds of things with garlic motifs such as belt buckles, jewelry, paperweights, hats, and T- shirts.

But the heart of the festival is an outdoor kitchen called Gourmet Alley. Here about 50 amateur chefs -- businesswomen, lawyers, and farmers -- prepare all kinds of garlicladen delicacies, many featuring fresh seafood of the area.

At the last festival the cooks served more than 2,000 pounds of calamari, 300 pounds of scampi, 400 pounds of pasta, 200 mushrooms, 700 pounds ofmeat, 250 pounds of bell peppers, and 750 pounds of French bread all cooked with 300 pounds of fresh garlic.

This was in addition to all the delicious oysters in garlic sauce, gazpacho, chili, empanadas, quesadillas, and other fabulous food served during the festival.

A festival cookbook called The Garlic Lovers' Cookbok (Millbrae, Calif: Celestial arts. $6.95) includes interesting notes about the 200 recipes from this exuberant area.

There are a few things about using garlic that are different from the use of onions, chives, shallots, and other members of the Allium family. They are described in detail in the book.

The first thing to remember is that quantity is not the key factor. You can add 40 whole cloves of garlic to a chicken or turkey and the flavor of the meat and of the garlic will be less "garlicky" than if the juice of 5 or 10 garlics is pressed into the stuffing of the bird.

If you leave the clove whole and cook it slowly it will have a mild and nutty flavor and a soft consistency. This is because the heat destroys the odoriferous compound diallyl disulphide.

If you press or pound garlic in a mortar, you will bring out the stronger, more pungent flavor. The more violently one breaks down the tissues in the garlic clove, the mroe violent chemical reaction, and the more "violent" the taste.

When cooking garlic in hot oil remember that it burns easily and the flavor is not as good. When garlic is cooked slowly for along time it becomes very mellow and nutlike in flavor and can be spread on bread and potatoes like butter.

Garlic flavors food differently depending on how it used. It is most pungent when eaten raw, especially crushed or minced. Whole cloves or large pieces will give off a gentler flavor. The flavor of garlic is especially good in dishes which contain onions.

As for the odor on the breath, fresh parsley or other foods high in chlorophyll content will help to prevent it.

An odorless garlic was reported grown by a Japanese farmer in 1977. It was said to smell just a bit when eaten but no trace of the odor could be detected afterward except by people with an extremely keen sense of smell. It is currently being produced by one garlic grower in Arizona, but is not commonly available.

To remove garlic from the hands, rub with salt or lemon juice and then rinse under cold water.

Today there are many strains of garlic grown all over the world, about 300 in all. They range in color from white to dark wine shades. In California, which produces about 90 percent of all US supply, there are two major varieties of garlic, "early" and "latekeeping" types. The early garlc is harvested in late May or June, with the late variety following in three to five weeks.

Garlic is held in cold storage for shipment all year round from California. Additional supplies are imported primarily from Mexico. California garlic is usually "whiteskinned"; the Mexican is pinkish or purplish in color.

Elephant garlic is an extra large type of garlic, producing bulbs weighing up to one pound or more each. Delicious and milder in flavor, it is a hardy plant and can be fall planted in most parts of the country to produce heavy yields the next summer.

If you are interested in growing garlic you can order normal grlic and Elephant Garlic from many mail-order seed houses such as Burpee, Harris, Gurney, and others.

Here is a recipe for the famous Forty Clove Chicken from the head chef of Gourmet Alley, Val Filice, and his wife Elsie, who are also garlic growers.

To enjoy this dish fully, serve the hot chicken with French bread, and spread the soft garlic cloves on the bread, discarding the skin. Forty Clove Chicken Felice 1 frying chicken, cut in pieces 40 cloves garlic 3/4 cup chicken stock 1/4 cup olive oil 4 stalks celery, chopped 1 teaspoon oregano 2 teaspoons dried basil 6 springs parsley, minced Pinch cruched red pepper 1 lemon Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken pieces in shallow baking pan, skin side up. Sprinkle all ingredients evenly over chicken. Squeeze juice from lemon and pour over top. Cut lemon rind into pieces and sprinkle over chicken.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degree F. 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Skordalia (Greek Garlic Sauce) 6 medium potatoes 4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons salt 1 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup white vinegar 3 egg yolks

Boil potatoes and mash as for mashed potatoes. Add garlic and salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Using mixer or food processor, combine and mix potatoes and garlic, slowly adding oil and vinegar, alternating. You may add more vinegar if you like a tart flavor.

Add egg yolks to make mixture fluffy. Serve on bread, crackers, and fresh vegetables.

This tart, tangy, garlic marinade adds flavor to steamed broccoli and may be used on other fresh vegetables. It is a recipe contest entry from Carla Johnson of Petaluma. Broccoli Salad 2 bunches broccoli 1/4 cup olive oil 3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup white vinegar

Prepare broccoli peeling stems and flowers into bite size pieces to equal about 4 cups uncooked. Steam or broil until just tender. Drain and cool.

Toss broccoli with olive oil, garlic, salt, and oregano. Add vinegar and toss again. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Prepare a day ahead if disired and serve chilled or at room temperature. Garlic Butter 6 large cloves fresh garlic 1 stick soft butter 2 tablespoons chives Salt to taste

Mash garlic and blend with butter. Add chives and salt to taste. Chill garlic butter, roll into logs, place in plastic wrap and chill until firm. Slice off as needed to add to vegetables or use as a spread on French bread or toasted English muffins. Garlic butter can also be frozen in logs.

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