A favorite ingredient in Mediterranean cooking, embedded in vampire folklore, and boasting a plethora of beneficial health effects, it is no surprise that this bulbous and piquant plant of the onion family has its own national day.
The two varieties of garlic, softneck and hardneck, branch into hundreds of different sub-varieties, providing a huge range of potency, taste, and smell. The pungent scent that makes garlic so identifiable in dishes is caused by changes to its cells, as happens most dramatically when it is cut or minced. The beauty of the raw, sharp tasting cloves, is that once cooked, they take on an altogether sweeter flavor.
As well as being tasty and versatile, these humble cloves also harbor a nutritional medley of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6 and C, calcium, potassium, and iron. To ensure you use garlic at its peak, choose heads which are firm and tight-skinned.
Roasted whole garlic is sweet and lends itself well to a variety of uses. It is perfect spread directly onto toasted bread, mashed into potatoes, mixed into butter or mayonnaise, or added to soups and stews.
For such a versatile result, the roasting method is extremely simple. Preheat your oven to 350 F, and remove the very outer, loose layer of papery covering. Cut the very top off of the garlic head, exposing the individual cloves, and place into a baking dish cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and cover. Place into the oven for about 1 hour before removing. Alternatively, just wrap the garlic head in foil and place directly onto the oven rack.
The roasted garlic should be soft and can be squeezed or scooped out into a dish to use as desired.
Raw garlic can be added to a multitude of recipes, which has the added benefit of helping it retain many of its nutritional qualities which are often damaged by heat. One such recipe is for Mediterranean garlic sauce Aioli.
While traditionally made by hand, Aioli can be made with the aid of a food processor by cooks embracing modern technology. Simply combine a small pinch of saffron with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and set aside. Combine 3 crushed garlic cloves, 2 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 300 milliliters olive oil in a food processor and mix until it forms a thick sauce. Add the saffron and water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Use to dip vegetables into or as a side sauce for meat or fish.
The pungency of sliced or minced garlic adds a deeper layer of flavor to sauces, from a Spanish tomato-based Romesco sauce, to a simple Italian Oglio e Olio, or “garlic and oil” for the non- Italophiles among us.
For the latter, slice garlic thinly, allowing about 2-3 large cloves per person, and sauté in enough olive oil to nearly cover the slices. Once they begin to color, remove from the heat. This garlic and oil mixture can be used on its own to coat pasta, or chopped dried chilies and herbs such as parsley can be added during the sautéing process to deepen the dynamic of the sauce. For those who fancy a more tomato based sauce, add 1 cup of chopped grape tomatoes per person while sautéing the garlic.
Chocolate and garlic is not a combination often seen, nor one which would be expected to get mouths watering. However, while garlic truffles may sound questionable, they may surprise you. To make 30 truffles, bring ⅓ cup heavy cream to a simmer and add 6 tablespoons unsalted butter until melted. Add 8 ounces of 60 percent bittersweet chocolate chips, stir until smooth, transfer to a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. Once the mixture has cooled, refrigerate until hardened before rolling balls from the mixture. Roll the truffles in ⅓ cocoa powder or chopped nuts to coat.