Whether it’s post-holiday letdown or a response to temperatures fluctuating from 50 degrees in the morning to zero by midnight, flu and colds, sniffles and sneezes assail us from all sides. As the best defense against winter’s germy onslaught is a healthy immune system, now is the time to use some of summer’s bounty — particularly the onions and garlic you may be lucky enough to have stored away — to make some healthy spreads, sauces and soups. If it’s delicious as well as good for you, all the better. Coming into a house redolent of spices and garlic is also warmly welcoming on a cold day.

We’ve all heard that consumption of garlic is beneficial to our immune systems and general health, and all have joked, as well, that the major benefit is a result of people with colds being kept at bay by garlic’s pungent odor. It’s true that most of garlic’s health effects are attributable to one of the sulfur compounds formed when a clove is chopped, crushed or chewed. This compound, known as allicin, is responsible for garlic’s distinctive smell. Garlic’s reputed healthful properties are most available when it’s consumed raw. The best way to prepare garlic, from a health standpoint, is to crush and cut it and leave it out for at least ten minutes before you add it to your recipes, to allow the allicin to fully develop.

My favorite way to use garlic is to mince a few cloves, then mix them with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a touch of maple syrup or honey and a bit of salt as salad dressing. But I don’t consider this a therapeutic intake of garlic; it just tastes good. To consume a whole clove of chopped garlic at one time we often mince the cloves, mix with a bit of olive oil, turmeric and cumin, let it sit while we toast up some bread, then use it as a butter substitute on the toast. An alternative toast topper is made by slicing the top off a bulb of garlic and then roasting it whole. After it has softened, spread the garlic paste on your toast or on French bread to accompany a hearty soup. This garlic isn’t raw, but reportedly roasting garlic gives it a richer, sweeter flavor without sacrificing any of the health benefits.

For an immune-boosting curry sauce that can spice up your winter meals, combine equal quantities of thinly sliced onions, chopped fresh ginger and chopped garlic — about a cup of each — with two chopped tomatoes, two chopped green chilies, a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt and pepper to taste. Saute in a teaspoon each of butter and olive oil until softened and then spoon over fish, chicken or roasted vegetables.

The ultimate hit of garlic and onions comes in a classic garlic soup made with unbelievable quantities of the “stinking rose,” the name the Romans gave to garlic bulbs. Again, the garlic isn’t raw, but I like to think that a soup made with so many cloves will retain at least some of its health-giving properties.

44-Clove Garlic Soup with Parmesan

26 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
3 cups sliced onions
1 tsp. fresh thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups chicken stock (homemade would be great but is not essential)
14 cup sour cream
12 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish, add olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze cloves to release the soft paste and place in a small bowl. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about five minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook an additional three minutes. Add chicken stock, cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Puree soup in blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan, stir in sour cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Divide grated cheese among four bowls, ladle soup over and serve.