If there is one food I love more than anything else in the world, it has to be garlic. Delicious, pungent and flavorful, this jewel of the earth is probably the most crucial building block in all of my meals.
My love for garlic not only stems from years of cooking at home and as a professional chef, but also was passed down through several generations.
My great-grandmother was garlic’s biggest fan. To her, it not only flavored her food, but also cured toothaches, colds and whatever else might ail you.
Many a time at her house I was forced to eat a chunk of mashed raw garlic for even the slightest hint of a sniffle. And I am nothing but grateful.
Old wives’ tales aren’t always true, but garlic can be counted as a super food, chock full of antioxidants. It has also been known to be used as an all-natural antibiotic throughout the ages.
But mainly, I just love to eat it.
All chefs have their own way to chop or dice garlic – garlic press, food processor or even thinly sliced on a mandolin. I take the rustic cooking approach.
While peeling, take the flat side of your knife and gently press down on the garlic clove. This will loosen the skin and also help release the oils inside this tasty truffle of flavor.
After I’ve peeled all the cloves I’ll be using for a recipe, I rough-chop them into small pieces and set them aside until I am ready to cook. I like most of my recipes with luscious lumps of garlic, sautéed before heading into a dish.
Why I sauté
The reason I sauté is to open up the flavor of the garlic – and subsequently chopped onions, celery or such – that will be giving my dish its hearty flavor.
Heat your pan on medium-high. When the pan is hot to the touch, add your oil. I normally use extra virgin olive oil, but the oil really depends on the recipe.
Immediately add your chopped garlic and onions, etc. Let them sizzle for about 30 seconds then lower the heat to medium, letting them cook until they are transparent. Now you’re ready to add them to recipes like chili, soups, stews or stir-fries.
One of the best dishes to make is simply roasted garlic. The warm, buttery texture of well-roasted garlic is magical and can turn any old slice of bread into an awe-inspiring hors d’oeuvre.
Slow roasting knocks out the heavy pungent aroma of raw garlic, mellowing it into a sweet, rich, nutty flavor. It also softens the cloves, making them easy to spread.
Garlic is also quite inexpensive. Although it normally runs $1.50 to $2.00 a pound, it takes A LOT of garlic to make a pound. Even I don’t buy it by the pound – although I sure could.
Roasted garlic can be mixed with other ingredients, used in bread recipes or even chopped and put into other recipes. Its uses are endless.
How to roast garlic:
4-5 heads of fresh unpeeled garlic
1 x 1 foot piece of aluminum foil
Sheet pan OR Muffin pan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel away the outer layers of the garlic skin, but make sure you leave the skin on the individual cloves.
Cut away the top of the bulb, about ¼ from the top, revealing the tops of the individual cloves.
Place garlic bulbs cut side up into your baking pan, or an individual bulb into each compartment of the muffin pan. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over each head.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes.
If you are using foil instead of the muffin pan, place the bulbs cut side up onto the foil and drizzle generously with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, closing tightly at the top and place on the sheet pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
At the 30-minute mark, test your garlic. If it is soft and mushes when pressed, then it’s ready. Let cool before use.
For spreads, just mash the garlic into butter, spread on bread or blend with mashed potatoes. Or you can add the individual cloves to recipes.
If you are making a spread with the garlic, you can just squeeze the bulb and the garlic should come out in a paste-like form.
If you want to place the individual cloves into something, use a cocktail fork or a small knife to gently slide each clove from its skin.
If you are like me, you’ll eat straight it from the oven with a spoon.
Pro-tip: Store unpeeled heads of garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods. Do not refrigerate or freeze unpeeled garlic. Garlic stored correctly will last up to 3-4 months. (But most likely not in my kitchen!)
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and appeared on “The Best Of…” in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.