Garlic. No, thank you, on a first date. Yes, please, if your date is with a vampire.
One of our oldest crops, it has been in culinary and medicinal use for more than 7,000 years. Garlic has spawned a subculture that other root vegetables—say, carrots or parsnips—have not inspired.
Kitchen tools have been invented specifically for its use; Williams Sonoma alone offers five types of garlic presses and a floppy tube for quickly peeling its delicately skinned cloves. There are garlic festivals in places as close as Highwood and as far as France. At the garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., there’s even a pageant at which a “Garlic Queen” is crowned (after she models an evening gown and delivers a garlic speech, of course). There is even a National Garlic Day on April 19.
Yet on the kitchen’s stage, garlic is rarely cast as the star. It’s Christopher Walken in “Pulp Fiction” and “True Romance,” coming in for a bit part then stealing the show. Garlic gives savory depth to tomato sauces, kicks up curries and adds a bite to bread. In the recipe below, garlic serves to temper lemon’s sour flavor for a delicious, light balance. It has earned its recurring role as a pantry staple.
When buying garlic, look for firm heavy bulbs (too light indicates dehydration). They should be dry and tight rather than loose and papery. Store your garlic in a cool, dark, dry place. Once you’ve peeled the cloves, place them in a plastic bag and squeeze all of the air out before storing them in your refrigerator.
This recipe uses yogurt instead of cream for creating a healthier version of a rich dish; roasting the garlic removes some of it pungency.
Garlic Lemon Pasta
Serves 4 as main dish and 6 as a side dish
- 1 head garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup plain yogurt (can use low-fat)
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 8 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 ounces spaghetti (can use whole-wheat, fortified or gluten-free), cooked
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a small pan or dish with foil. Slice top off garlic and stand on its base (top up) in pan.
3. Drizzle olive oil over garlic then roast in oven for 45-50 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine yogurt, lemon juice and zest, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir until well mixed. Note: Mixture will taste sour until garlic is added.
5. Once garlic is browned and cloves give when poked with fork, remove from oven. Let cool slightly then squeeze cloves from skin and mash with fork.
6. In a large pan on stove, heat butter on medium-low heat and add roasted garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
7. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes.
8. Combine spaghetti and sauce and mix until evenly coated. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan and lemon zest.
Tip: To make this recipe more quickly on a busy night, roast your garlic a day or two in advance then keep fresh by wrapping entire bulb (don’t separate cloves) in foil and placing in the refrigerator.
Other uses for Roasted Garlic:
- Spread warm garlic cloves right onto bread as a butter substitute.
- Mix mashed garlic with a pinch of salt into softened butter; add herbs like basil or tarragon and some lemon zest then form into a log, wrap with plastic and refrigerate or freeze. Use on bread, veggies or pasta.
- Mix into mashed potatoes.
- Add roasted cloves to pouches when steaming fish.
- Spread on pizza dough before adding other ingredients.
- Mix into mayo and use to top sandwiches.
- Smear it on inside of bread when making grilled cheese.