The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches — and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic many years ago. Yes, it’s garlic. No, it’s not a unique variety. And, no, it’s not rotten. It’s the same head you’ve been cooking with for years only it’s been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it’s softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex. Some restaurant chefs have figured out how to make it on their own and there are directions on various sites for making it but it’s readily available online at Black Garlic North America, Mondo Food, Amazon, at specialty spice shops, and some Whole Foods stores. And there are plenty of sites with recipes for using black garlic that you can do an easy search for. Basically, though, use it as you would use roasted garlic, understanding that the flavor will be different.

One dish I’ve made with black garlic is pesto. The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.


Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it’s still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but with warmer weather on the way, it’s perfect for drizzling over tomatoes and roasted vegetables like fennel. It’s also perfect on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic is also a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken. Here’s what I’ve done successfully: make black garlic butter. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It’s easy to do. Use a mini food processor and puree two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger chopped into a few pieces. Just for myself, with a whole chicken leg I spread half under the skin, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.

 

 

With the rest of the compound butter, I sautéed lovely miniature (not “baby”) carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

What unique ingredient is now your “secret ingredient” and how do you use it?

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