March 22nd, 2008, by Francesca
Hold on. Not the overwhelming garlicness of faux Italian restaurants… I am talking about the garlic innuendos of authentic Italian dishes here. Despite the disservice rendered by popular US restaurant chains and the legacy of bad TV shows, real Italian cooking makes sensible use of garlic and even within the wide range of cooking styles throughout the Italian peninsula — from garded restraint to colorful exuberance — herbs and spices are always just an accent, never the total annihilation of a dish.
Italian cuisine is about using the freshest seasonal products and in general the highest quality ingredients you can get your hands on. As a consequence, the main ingredients of a dish are allowed to shine through in all their glory; why obliterate them with a ton of spices?
If you believe everything you see on TV, you may be under the impression that garlic makes it into every Italian dish and in large quantities. Not so. Well, at least in Romagna, where garlic is certainly a staple item, most of the time it's only a couple of cloves that make it into the pan, to be removed promptly after the oil has been flavored.
Alas, after all these years in California, I fear that I have succumbed to the local ways and I am now erring on the side of excess. More often than not, I slice my garlic and leave it in the dish. As part of my culinary training, I will strive to experiment and change my ways. Who knows? I might even go back to removing garlic from the pan. :)