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The Garlic Pause

Even since Pamela Druckerman wrote about “le pause” in her hilarious memoir Bringing Up Baby, I’ve thought of it as her clever idea, though she attributes it to French parents one and all. Le Pause is a five-minute delay that French parents wait out (wine sip) when their baby begins crying. It’s an opportunity, given from the newborn stage on, to let the baby try to sort out what’s wrong on their own. It is a habit that ends up being intuitive for parents of multiple children (mostly because it takes you five minutes to respond). Both sets, the experienced and the inexperienced, often observe that babies will settle back in after a screech or two mid-nap.

A few years ago I met the curious culinary equivalent: the garlic pause.

Researchers into garlic’s immune-boosting strength discovered that if you leave garlic to sit for ten minutes before cooking with it, 70% of the allicin is preserved. If you use it immediately you destroy the heat-sensitive enzyme that triggers the reaction to create allicin. Allicin is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property and what researchers often attribute to garlic’s cancer fighting potential. (I am not a nutritionist, I learned all of this from the fascinating book Eating on the Wild Side. <–that’s a link to where she discusses allicin!)

To recapture all the antibacterial allicin being squandered in my kitchen, I had to switch up my cooking pattern a bit because garlic is typically the first ingredient in the hot pan. Now, I chop up the garlic first thing, then do a few dishes, wipe down the counters, and come back to cooking. Thus, the garlic pause came into being in my kitchen.

Below, my three very favorite pasta recipes lately (two out of three contain garlic). I’ve included my favorite pesto recipe. Controversial. There are so many pesto recipes out there! This one is from Simply in Season (shout-out to the humble Mennonites cooks) and the proportions are perfect. To save money I always use walnuts in pesto, instead of pine nuts.

  • Julia Turshen’s sausage & caramelized onion one-pan dish from Small Victories (pictured above, thanks for the photo, Rachel!). I’ve made this delicious dish for countless dinner parties. It is packed with favorite things: sausage, greens, cream, lemon zest! It also seems to make one box of pasta go a long way. You can see the recipe as it is written in the cookbook right here.

A Pesto recipe, from Simply in Season

  • 1 cup / 250 ml packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
  • 1-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup /75 ml pine nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
  • 3-6 tablespoons parmesan grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 springs flat parsley (if you happen to have it!)

Finely chop all of the above together in a food processor.

  • 1/3-1/2 cup / 75-125 ml olive oil

Add gradually while food processor runs to make a thick paste. Serve at room temperature with any kind of hot pasta. I like to retain 1/2 cup of pasta water in a mug, and dribble a bit of it in when I add the pesto to the pasta. It makes the pesto creamier. Add a bit at a time until it looks how you’d like.

  • Jon & Vinny’s fusilli alla vodka. This is a new one for me, I learned of it from my west-coast sister Joanie (thanks for the photo, Joanie!). After she shared it, several members of my family all made the same dish in their homes! Is that happening in your extended household during quarantine? I love the minimal ingredients and honestly, fusilli is my favorite pasta shape. Recipe at bon appetit. 



  • Susie

    I always like hearing about what you’re cooking. I’ll try the walnut for pine nut swap. I made pesto pasta nonstop about 5 years ago and haven’t since then. Will do it again now!

  • Bridget Hunt

    These all look so good. I need to pull Small Victories off the shelf again.

    My pesto trick, from a local friend, is to use a blender instead of a food processor. The consistency is so much creamier and somehow that much more amazing.

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