Introducing Salt and Garlic

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Introducing Salt and Garlic

Introducing Salt & Garlic

I just had to comment on the role of salt and garlic in Mediterranean cuisine when Rich asked to review Mark Kurlansky’s book Salt, and when I saw Paola had chosen Skordalia, a classic Greek dip with garlic, as this month’s recipe.

As I pondered the recipe and review I couldn’t help but think of garlic and salt mixtures I’ve eaten. Of course, salt cod in the Mediterranean (even though it is a North Sea and North Atlantic fish) is legendary. Once when we lived in Venice I couldn’t resist buying a dried salt cod in the Rialto market and trying it out at Christmas time. Salt cod is not really a part of Paola’s repertoire. Soak it 48 hours, explained the fishmonger, then boil it. I did and it tasted ok but it probably need another 24 hours of soaking. (In Spain and Portugal I’ve eaten salt cod – baccalá – in a dozen different ways. Search online for bacalhau, bacalao or baccala and you’ll find more recipes than you’ll ever need!)

Add some garlic to your baccalá with a little olive oil and you have the wonderful Provençal dish, aioli. Aioli is essentially a garlic mayonnaise served with the traditional boiled fish and vegetables in Provence.

Then there is, of course, tzatziki. If you have never experienced this Greek yogurt and cucumber dip awash in garlic, you have something in store. I find it addictive. In Greece they serve it in the appetizer course as a dip with bread or fried zucchini (one more zucchini recipe this time of year!)

Bagna cauda from Italy’s Piedmont is the most powerful fondue you’ll ever eat. It is made of olive oil, dissolved anchovies (dried in salt, of course) and garlic. Melt this mixture over a fondue pot and keep it warm as you dip fresh veggies in it. They use it as an appetizer or as a main course in the Piedmont.

Garlic and salt, of course, are prime ingredients in the simplest of appetizers – bruschetta (see Rick’s simple bruschetta here .)

For what must be THE original garlic bread just slice some stale bread, toast it, then rub half a fresh clove of garlic on it, sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Believe it or not, it was a real eye opener when I drew the connection between this (Italian garlic bread) and the “garlic bread” my mother or sister made where I grew up in Oregon. You know the recipe: take a loaf of half frozen French bread from the super market, slice it (I imagine you can even buy it pre-sliced), wrap it in tin foil, put a dab of butter into each slice, sprinkle in some garlic salt and heat it in the oven. There you have it – Oregon coast garlic bread from the 1960s!

Here’s one last combination of garlic and salt, our favorite salad dressing from Paola’s Aunt at the farm in Italy:

Chop a clove or two of garlic; place it in the bottom of the salad bowl and shake a liberal dose of salt on top. Using a fork, crush the garlic and the salt together over the entire bottom and sides of the bowl. Add salad, olive oil and vinegar and toss. People will wonder what you put in there!

Do you have a favorite garlic and salt recipe? Please add it in the comments section at the bottom of the page!