Raw garlic is a powerful, potent force that can be harnessed to create surprisingly subtle effects. One of the easiest ways to do this is to halve a raw, peeled clove, then rub that clove on a serving bowl, plate, or platter. Doing so imparts a hint of garlic flavor and aroma to the dish without overpowering other, more delicate flavors.
America’s Test Kitchen recommends prepping the bowl for their super simple salad by rubbing it with a halved clove, to give it a bit of oomph. They’ve tried this move on metal, wooden, and ceramic salad bowls and their tasters “confirmed that it adds a noticeable improvement no matter the material.”
But salad bowls aren’t the only serving vessels that benefit from an allium rubdown. Rubbing a casserole dish before filling it—with a creamy au gratin, macaroni and cheese, or shepherd’s pie—will give it an enticing but gentle garlicky flavor. You can also rub garlic on any serving plate, bowl, or dish before filling it with food. Plate your steaks on garlic-rubbed plates, pile grilled asparagus onto garlic-rubbed platters, ladle soups and stews into garlic-rubbed bowls.
Once your servingware has been appropriately massaged with garlic, you can use the remainder of the clove on some bread. Rubbing a raw clove of garlic on a piece of crusty toast is one of the easiest, most effective ways to make garlic bread. The craggy surface of the toast will grate the garlic, absorbing its juices so they permeate the bread. Eat it plain, spread some salted butter on there, or grate some tomatoes and make pan con tomate.
Oh, and if you’re worried about your wooden salad bowls and platters smelling like garlic, America’s Test Kitchen recommends removing those aromas by “baking” the bowl overnight. (I have not tried this yet, but may have to do this with a couple of my stinkier cutting boards.)