I learned this method of cooking garlic while working in a fabulous Michelin-star rated Ligurian restaurant. I would start each day in the restaurant with a cup of espresso and a large pile of garlic bulbs, which I worked on with Grandmother. Together, we separated all the cloves, then removed the peel. This was the first 30 minutes of every day.
The Chef explained to me Italians didn’t like a harsh-tasting garlic flavor in their food. This method of cooking the garlic cloves in water removes the enzymes that can cause stomach discomfort. Cooking the garlic also produces a wonderfully sweet puree that can be used in several different ways. I like using the puree as a base to many of the pasta sauces I make at the last moment. I take 2-3 tablespoons of the puree and gently heat it in the saucepan. I then add a sauce base – usually a tomato sauce and reduce everything down. Sometimes I will add a bit of chili to the tomatoes, or capers and olives. It is a delicious sauce made in just about the same amount of time as it takes to cook spaghetti.
I also use the puree to make dips by combining other purees (artichoke, spinach, asparagus, roasted peppers, etc.) to form a single dip. Or, try it while making some tofu sour cream. Perhaps my favorite method is simply to spread the warm puree directly on toast and enjoy!
The following template recipe will make about one cup of puree.
2 heads of garlic
30 ml. (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
50 ml. (1/4-cup) water
Separate all the cloves and peel them. Place the peeled cloves in a shallow pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Strain and repeat the process five or six times (the sixth time will yield a softer and milder puree). Puree together with sea salt, olive oil and water. Store refrigerated for up to 10 days in a glass jar (top off with a layer of olive oil).
Jack’s Fresh Tip
I use a high-powered blender (vitamix) to make this puree. I think it makes a velvety smooth puree, which simply cannot be achieved in a food processor or mini blender. You can also make this puree without any oil and simply mix together with water. The flavor will be a bit more bitter and flat-tasting, but you can always add the fat you want (if you want) when finishing the puree in a sauce or making a dip.