The Jewish love potion

Eat some garlic--and pucker up

garlicweb image

When I think of foods that put you "in the mood," I typically jump right to chocolate, strawberries, and similar pupil-dilating, mouth-watering sweets. The chocolatiers of the world agree, as the chocolate industry reports global sales of over 140 billion dollars annually with numbers rising.

It turns out, while I am not wrong that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, it's not chocolate but of all things--garlic--that tops the mood enhancing list. Yeah, yeah, we know garlic breath isn't a turn on, but there is so much else about garlic that makes it a sexy food.

And science backs this up: Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which builds up heat in the body, increases blood flow, and stimulates the production of testosterone. The herb has been associated with strengthening reproductive organs, increasing sexual stamina, and boosting libido in men and women. 

Jewish texts and sages alike point to garlic as an aphrodisiac. The Talmud advises husbands to eat garlic on Shabbat night to perform their marital duty with vigor and says that it increases male fertility. Jewish sages list five properties of garlic: It satiates, it warms the body, it brightens a person's countenance, it increases semen, and it kills parasites in the intestines. Some  have noted that garlic gladdens the heart and therefore eliminates jealousy. 

Lucky for us, then, garlic is an important ingredient in Jewish cuisine. In fact, the herb is so important to Judaism and Shabbat that the Talmud lists it as one of the foods recommended as part of the Oneg Shabbat : a dish of cooked beets, large fish, and cloves of garlic. 

The only true way to enjoy garlic is to partake in the sweet stink with your lover. The recipes below show off garlic's flavor and perfume. Enjoy with your love and let your countenance shine. 

Garlicky Olive Oil Poached Halibut 

Poaching mild, sweet tasting halibut in olive oil makes the already delicious fish, buttery soft and luscious. Poaching the fish with garlic and topping it with olives, makes the fish a restaurant-worthy menu standout. The fact that the recipe is easy is a bonus! 

Serves 2

2 5-ounce skinless halibut filets

1 ½ cups good quality extra virgin olive oil

8 large, peeled garlic cloves

1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

1/3 cup mixed good quality olives (kalamata, cracked green olives, dried Sicilian olives

2 tablespoons capers

½ cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

Several fresh basil leaves, torn

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  1. Place halibut, olive oil, garlic, and lemon slices into a small saucepan. Heat pan on low until olive oil is barely hot, the oil should NOT fry the fish, only gently poach it. Continue poaching for about 15 minutes.
  2. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes to firm up the fish, before gently removing the fish with a spatula (the fish will be very delicate) to a serving platter. Sprinkle fish with sea salt and pepper.
  3. Strain the oil and reserve 2 tablespoons of oil, garlic cloves and lemon slices.  The remaining oil can be refrigerated and used to poach more fish.
  4. Place reserved oil in sauté pan over low heat. Add lemon slices, reserved garlic from poaching, mixed olives, capers, sliced tomatoes, and basil leaves. Heat mixture until hot. Remove from heat. Add basil leaves and spoon mixture over poached fish. Serve hot or room temperature. 

Grilled Garlic Bread

Skip the powdery garlic and pre-chopped stuff in a jar. Rustic, grilled garlic bread, prepared outdoors with the evening sun on your face and the perfume of fresh garlic in the air is the stuff that love and summer are made of. No grill, or maybe rain soaked your plans? No prob! Take the party indoors and use the broiler to char the bread.

1 large ciabatta or loaf whole wheat bread, sliced into 1 ½ inch thick slices or sliced lengthwise if using a baguette

Extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, cut in half

2 ripe tomatoes

  1. Heat grill or broiler to medium. Brush bread with olive oil.
  2. Grill or broil bread until browned and crusty on both sides. (Be careful as this process can go quickly!)
  3. Rub bread with cut garlic, and then rub bread with tomato. The juices will soak into the bread and be fragrant and intoxicating.
  4. Eat!

Green Garlic Vinaigrette 

Green garlic is a whole different garlic than the papery bulbs found in the supermarket. Green garlic is a younger, sweeter, fresher, and softer garlic. The flavor is mild and usual garlic punch is more of a whisper on the palate. I love green garlic and scoop it up as soon as it appears at farmers' markets. 

The whole plant is edible. The green stalks can be chopped up and used like chives or scallions. Toss them into stir-fries, potato salad, pasta, and egg dishes like shakshuka . The soft, pale cloves are the magic to this vinaigrette. The under-developed cloves are easily pureed to a paste and are so sweet and delicious. Drizzle green garlic vinaigrette over grilled steaks, chicken, veggies, fish, or toss with hot pasta. 

3 bulbs and stems green garlic, coarsely chopped

3 teaspoons coarse-grain mustard

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon sea salt

A few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

½ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

  1. Either in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, pulse garlic and mustard until a paste forms. Add zest and juice, honey, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix until combined.
  2. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking or pulsing until the mixture is emulsified. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Store garlic vinaigrette in fridge, covered, for up to 5 days or freeze for 1 month. 

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.

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