Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Roast Garlic...and Ward Off Vampires

Just kidding about the second part...

Some excellent Italian restaurants put this velvety, heady stuff on your table....roasted garlic paste is usually mixed in with good olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper and served with crusty, hearty bread. HEAVEN. Just heaven. There used to be a good little Italian restaurant called Cucina Roma (since closed) in Westmont that served this stuff....that restaurant made me think roasted garlic was exotic and otherworldly...until I tried to make it. One word: EASY.

Roasting garlic makes it milder in flavor. In fact, I read that raw garlic is 2-4 times stronger in flavor.


Quantity depends on how many bulbs you make. For every head of garlic you roast, count on 1 big Tbsp. of garlic puree. So, don't be overwhelmed thinking you are going to have too much puree by roasting a few garlic heads (heads-not cloves).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel away as much of the outer layers of the papery skin on the garlic bulbs, leaving JUST the skins of the individual cloves intact; leave garlic bulb whole--don't separate the cloves out. Using a sharp knife, slice approximately a 1/2-inch off of the pointed end of the garlic bulbs, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. I actually think I cut off less than that...

Then, place the garlic heads in a either an aluminum foil pouch (you make) that you will place on a metal sheet pan, or a small ovenproof dish/garlic cooker/small pan. If you plan to make a lot, using a cooking sheet covered with aluminum foil is probably the best method.

Pour a bit of olive oil (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon) over the top of each bulb and let it sink in between the cloves. Within a matter of a few minutes, it will sink in the bulbs.

(I read somewhere to then repeat by adding more oil with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon over each garlic bulb, but I am not sure if this is necessary. In fact, I used the spray olive oil this last time and it worked FINE. But that's also because I mixed the roasted garlic with some real olive oil when mashing the paste.)

Whichever method you choose, cover and bake the garlic approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until cloves are browned at the exposed end and soft throughout. Remove from oven. The bulbs will be golden brown when ready.

Let the bulbs cool--otherwise you will burn yourself while trying to push the puree out. When they have cooled, either separate the cloves out and flatten with a knife to get the puree out, or use a small spoon/fork to scoop out the flesh. Personally, I squeeze each clove to get the puree out. This is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. It's a pain, but works fastest for me.

Now what to do with it?

You can spread cream cheese on bread and then add the roasted, pureed garlic. In any case, you will love it. Or, add it to pasta sauce, add it to bread dough, add it to meat dishes, sauces, etc. You can mix the puree with goat cheese and herbs and stuff mushrooms with the filling before roasting them.

Or my favorite method: mash the puree with a fork and add some extra virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and Italian herbs. (See below-bread is from previous post)

You can store it in the fridge for several days. I think it lasts longer if it is mixed with the olive oil. I haven't tried freezing roasted garlic puree yet, but I might sometime.

If you want to have an Italian night with company, buy some crusty Italian loaves, a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a hunk of Parmesan cheese, and if you prefer, a bottle of Barolo. Serve a salad and spaghetti with meatballs. Roast several garlic heads an hour before company comes--serve as above, and then watch magic happen....

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