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Garlic Makes Everything Better




Powerful when raw, and mellow, sweet and smooth when cooked long and slow, garlic is an intoxicating herb (although some call it a vegetable) that improves many dishes. It can balance and lift the acid of tomatoes, give dimension to meats and create richness in cream sauces. Garlic is especially delicious when roasted whole.

Not only is garlic scrumptious, but it also offers a variety of health benefits. So peel a few cloves to add to whatever is on the menu for dinner tonight.

Roasted Garlic Purée

If you like to by food in bulk, then you may be tempted to purchase one of those pre-packaged rafts of garlic. Though this is usually too much for one family to consume before it loses its freshness, you can very simply roast and puree the garlic for later use. Roasted garlic is sweeter and nuttier than when fresh and so easy to add to just about anything.

You'll need:
One or several heads of garlic
High quality olive oil

Tear off a piece of foil large enough to wrap the garlic. If roasting several heads, a full 12-inch-by-12-inch square should work well. If roasting more, you can use a covered casserole dish just large enough so that the bulbs fit in one layer with their edges touching.

Peel off the outer papery part of the heads, but don't peel the individual cloves. Drizzle the garlic with some olive oil and cover the dish or twist the foil tightly to seal them.

Roast in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 60 minutes until soft. You can usually tell by pressing the head a bit. (Older garlic will take longer to soften.) Don't let the heads brown or they will become bitter. (At this point, you could pull out a head and serve it as an appetizer: Let guests squeeze the contents of each clove onto toasted baguette slices and pair with a nice, rich red wine.)

Let cool and separate cloves, squeezing the garlic into the bowl of a food processor (or, if only roasting one head, use a small bowl and fork to mash it more easily). Add a bit of the oil, but not all of it—you can reserve the remaining garlic-scented oil and use it to dress salads or mix into mashed potatoes, etc. Purée the garlic and transfer to a clean jar. This will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks (if you can save it that long).

Add roasted garlic purée to:

Salad dressings 
Mashed potatoes 
Bruschetta 
Guacamole
Gravies
Dips
Soups 
Polenta
Canned shelling beans like great northern or pinto (drain and rinse, add extra virgin olive oil to saucepan with beans, and, when warm, stir in garlic purée)
Sandwich spread
Mix with butter and a pinch of fresh parsley for amazing garlic bread
Thin with some chicken or vegetable stock and toss with steamed vegetables


Roasted Chicken with Lots of Garlic

This is loosely based on the "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic" concept, which, though I love garlic, feels like a bit much. I mean, who wants to peel 40 cloves of garlic? The tarragon is heavenly paired with the garlic and chicken.

1 plump roasting chicken
As much garlic as you care to peel, but not less than one good-sized head, preferably two or three
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper
1 good loaf of multi-grain bread or baguette

Chop half of the tarragon and mix with 1 clove of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of white pepper. Loosen the skin of the chicken with your fingers, and divide tarragon mixture and slip it under the skin on top of the breast meat.

Cut the trimmed celery in half lengthwise and put into the bottom of a covered casserole dish that will fit your chicken. Put the chicken on top and scatter the garlic cloves all around. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle the whole thing with extra virgin olive oil.

Roast in a 350-degree oven for one and a half hours, then remove the lid and roast another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done and lightly golden brown.

Remove the chicken to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes to let the juices settle; meanwhile, find all of your roasted garlic cloves and put them into a pretty little serving dish. These are like morsels of buttery garlic-ness to spread on your bread or eat with the chicken.

Garlic Chard and Beans

We grow Swiss chard and eat it all spring, summer and fall. This recipe is a great way to make a vegetable into a hearty side dish. You can also be adventurous and top it with poached eggs for an unusual breakfast or a luncheon entrée.

1  bunch Swiss chard leaves, chopped (about 5 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 15.5-ounce can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and cook, covered, stirring a few times, until the chard is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Move the chard to the edge and add the garlic to the center of the skillet and drizzle garlic with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Let sizzle for only 30 seconds or so, then add beans and stock. Stir until heated through. Drizzle with the lemon juice or balsamic and serve hot.

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