Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back to basics: How to roast garlic

Garlic is something that I have grown up eating.....something that I can never imagine my pantry without! I use garlic extensively in my cooking and am a sincere believer of - 'anything with garlic just tastes that much better'! I almost feel a tinge of pity for people who either do not eat or do not like garlic. I feel like they are truly missing out on something wonderful in life. My maternal grandmother does not eat garlic (she has gone without it her entire life). For her, it is a personal choice and has nothing to do with religion. Even though I've asked her the reason a million times, every time any conversation to do with garlic comes up, I ask her - "why is it again that you don't eat garlic"? She must be so fed up of me asking! 

Used in several cultures as part of their cuisine, garlic is an integral part of the culinary world. Apart from its unique flavor, garlic is also know to have many medicinal properties. Yet it also suffers a notorious reputation due to its pungent odor. This 'stinking rose' is used to ward off vampires and evil spirits. I don't about you but with awesome flavor and the power to drive away evil spirits, who cares about the odor? A pack of breath mints and I'm good to go! :D

Whenever I've used garlic in the past, I've always used it either in its raw form or by stir-frying it with other ingredients. Roasting garlic in the oven is something I had never considered doing. Watching cooking programmes on tv made me realize how roasted garlic could be used in a multitude of dishes (not to mention how absolutely amazing it looked!). You can use it as a spread on bread like toast or bruschetta, use it in pasta, soups, mashed potatoes, aioli, hummus, sauces, dips, to infuse oils and anytime you want to add extra flavor to certain starters and snacks. Roasted garlic has a much more milder and sweeter taste compared to raw garlic. The process of roasting, takes away the overpowering effect of the garlic which can sometimes be a good thing :)

Here is the procedure to obtain beautiful oven roasted garlic. It is ridiculously simple so if you have never done it before, why not give it a try? 

Large bulbs of garlic or elephant garlic (as many as you like!)
Good quality olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 deg C).
2. Peel away the loose, papery outer skin of the garlic and cut off the top 1/4th of it to nicely expose the cloves inside.

3. Get a piece of aluminum foil and set your bulb onto it. 

4. Drizzle each bulb with a couple teaspoons of good quality olive oil, and wrap the foil up around the bulb to seal it in a nice tight package. 

5. Set these foil packages on a baking tray, dish, or muffin tin. 
6. Pop these into in the centre of the oven and depending on your oven, roast for about 35-50 minutes (it took 50 mins for me), or until the garlic is soft, has a lovely caramel color, and the wonderful aroma of roasted garlic has filled your entire house! I would recommend that you check it around the 30 min mark to see how it is going. 
7. Let the foil packages cool completely before opening them up, otherwise the pent up steam can scald your fingers. 
8. Once the garlic has cooled down, unwrap the packages and hold the intact end of the garlic and squeeze away until all that golden roasted garlic goodness drops down (somewhat like toothpaste!) into a bowl.  Yes there I am squeezing the life outta that garlic bulb!

That my friends right there is awesomeness in a bowl! 

Remember that the flavor of roasted garlic is much milder then its untreated counterpart so may want to use much more of it.

I didn't have any fancy bread at home so I mixed the roasted garlic with softened butter, seasoned it with salt and pepper, spread it on plain white bread, topped it with chopped tomatoes, basil and a mixture of grated parmesan and cheddar cheese and baked it until golden brown - ah heavenly!

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