Garlic Demystified–and Enjoyed19 April 2012 by Jean Johnson
Spring’s the time of year when garlic wants to grow–both out in the garden, last fall’s crop starting to kick in for June harvest…
and in the house–with bulbs from last year’s crop starting to sprout–a sure sign that it’s time to roast some garlic.
Why? Because it takes heads and heads and heads to get very much of the delicious caramelized goo. So no need to let sprouting garlic go to waste.
The bulbs are fetching–tips trimmed for roasting and all shined up with oil. On the green shoots, prevailing wisdom in chef circles is that they are bitter and need pulling out from the otherwise still good cloves. Myself, I’ve tasted them over the years and haven’t found them off-putting. That’s what I like about cooking, you can see for yourself and then proceed accordingly.
Whatever you do, leave the green shoots in or strip them out, the tips of the cloves do need trimming so that once the garlic is roasted, it’s easy to squeeze out. (Expect a sticky experience, lessened by dipping your fingers in a dish of water as you work.)
Once you have some roasted garlic, sky’s the limit on what you can do with it.
It’s great smeared on a polenta pie pizza, decorated with last year’s tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and a healthy trickle of olive oil.
Not as sexy, but equally good, roasted garlic turns wilted winter greens into a taste treat and plain old white beans into food worth savoring.
All that and you can even snip spring garlic greens for mincing into anything from scrambled eggs to a grain salad. If that’s not enough, there’s green garlic as well that people who have Hippie Kitchen can check out on page 26. Truly a lazy cook’s dream, but then so is roasting some garlic.
Just put some heads in an oiled covered dish the next time you have the oven on. In 15-20 minutes you’ll be in possession of some seriously heady–but not strong*–stuff.
*Cooking mellows strong garlic and roasting really lays it away. More, different kinds of garlic pack different wallops.
The type with the purple-lavender husks that I grow are highly mellow. Where you could only use one clove of stronger garlic, you can use 3-4, even a half dozen of these cloves without going over the top.
I’ve learned this by working with this variety for years now–and also from my reading of Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney. Lulu favors the purple husk variety as well because it allows the cook to go for plenty of flavor without having the garlic over power. She even minces all the cloves from a single bulb to put into dishes. (Great cookbook, by the way.)
Here’s to working with pretty, pearly fresh garlic.