This garlic mortar is used daily here in kitchens; years ago I even brought one back with me to California because I missed it and could not find it anywhere; now, these are sold in all Middle-Eastern grocery stores and I have since bought several.
I want to stress that a garlic press or simply chopping garlic is not ideal if one wants to cook Lebanese dishes; the pounding of fresh garlic with salt resulting in a paste is what one should be after. It is used in salad dressings, soups, stews, pasta, in short everything.
Pounding garlic into a paste was my job as an apprentice cook at 12 and my mother made me pound away until the paste was really smooth. Since I try not to salt too much, if I use salt for the garlic paste (and there’s no way to do it without the salt), I don’t add it to the dish.
I also try to find locally grown garlic; even in Lebanon, garlic-country, most of the garlic sold is imported from China, so the solution is either to plant one’s own or to find a grocer who stocks local garlic, called toom baladi.
When I add the paste to stews or soups, I do so at the end of cooking to keep the garlic fresh and pungent. It is also healthier that way since garlic is such a potent spice when fresh (good for the heart, circulation, blood cleanser, etc).
Peel and cut the garlic clove lengthwise; remove the green shoot if it is in there (it gets bigger as the garlic gets older). Chop the garlic fine and place in the mortar with 1/2 tsp of salt; pound away for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture is pasty. Use in cooking right away or transfer to a small bowl and cover with oil till needed.
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