Garlic has been around for about 6000 years and is widely believed to hail from Central Asia. Back in the day, garlic was so valuable that it was used as currency. Clay replicas of garlic heads were placed in the tomb of Tutenkhamen. This brave bulb repels vampires, guards one from the unfortunate effects of the “Evil Eye” and protects young maidens and pregnant women from envious nymphs intending harm upon them. Garlic is documented to be an aphrodisiac and the health benefits are well-known. Even though garlic’s origins are in Central Asia, it has become associated with the regional cooking of the Mediterranean countries. Immigrants from these locales brought their cuisine with them and in 1920’s America, garlic was often referred to as “Italian perfume”, or “Bronx vanilla”.
There are few things in the culinary world that offer more bang for the buck than oven-roasted garlic. It is amazingly simple to prepare, requires only a few items, fills your home with the most tantalizing fragrance and the uses for the end result are endless. Plus, it’s cheap, which appeals to the fiercely frugal.
Since the roasted garlic cloves can be stored indefinitely, it is well worth your time to roast up as much as you can in one go. Check your local farmers’ markets for deals, or try growing your own: simply separate a head of garlic into cloves and plant!
There are many varieties of garlic, but “culinary” is the most common, and is what you will find in those little boxes in the produce section.
Some other varieties include:
- Silverskin- strong flavor
- Artichoke- milder flavor, fewer but larger cloves
- Rocambole- rich, full-bodied flavor
- Porcelain- similar to Rocambole but with as few as four cloves
- Purple Stripe- purple-hued, thought by many to be the ultimate choice for roasting
- Elephant garlic- as the name implies, a larger variety
Whether you choose elephant garlic or the smaller varieties is up to you. Some people think that elephant garlic delivers less of a kick, but it doesn’t shrink up as much as it’s tinier relatives.
To prepare the garlic for roasting, cut a piece of aluminum foil large enough to loosely wrap the entire head. Slice across the top of the head approximately ¼ of the way down. Place the head on the foil and drizzle with a good, robust olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and herbs if you wish.
Place the wrapped garlic heads in a 400 degree oven for about 40-60 minutes, until soft. Cool. Unwrap and squeeze cloves out of their casings. Store in the refrigerator in covered containers. For bumper crops, place garlic paste into ice cube trays and freeze. Remove from trays and store in freezer containers.
This delectable paste can be spread on crackers, bruschetteas and pizzas, added to sauces and hummus, slathered on meat, poultry and ribs, stirred into soups, baked into bread and incorporated into any salad dressing or mayonnaise concoction you can think of.
Making your own roasted garlic will turn you into a believer, and your kitchen will never smell the same again!