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Don’t get me wrong: I love garlicky anything, be it Caesar dressing, pot roast, or potato chip dip. But sometimes—and especially when it comes to warm-weather salads—I want garlic-ish, not garlicky. A whisper, not a shout.

Until now, this simply meant using less garlic in a salad dressing. But while reading Cook Something by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer (the Geniuses behind these crispy chicken thighs and these spice-fried eggs), I stumbled upon a smarter strategy:

“Instead of adding it to the vinaigrette or dressing…just rub the inside of the salad bowl with a peeled clove.”

As the authors explain, this simple step holds back that punch-you-in-the-face pungency, while still adding “lots of subtle flavor to the salad.” Think of whirling a citrus peel around the rim of a cocktail glass—the drink gains all the benefits of the ingredient (brightness! Vibrancy! Good vibes!), but isn’t overtly citrus-y.

You can show off this trick in a couple places: salads that call for garlic (that you’d like to tone down) and salads that don’t (that you’d like to dial up). With the former, just skip the garlic in the dressing and season the bowl instead.

While we’re at it, though, why stop at leafy greens? Garlic-rub the bowls for pasta salad, cucumber salad, or broccoli salad.

Once the garlic clove has done its job, refrigerate in a little airtight container (wrapped, if you’d like), and put towards something purposefully garlicky within a couple days.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles “on the fly,” baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma’s cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she’s up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

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