What the *&@#%!$ Should I Do with All This Fresh Garlic?

This week, I opened my CSA box to find piles and piles of "garlic for drying." My first thought was, "As opposed to ... wet garlic?"

Apparently, the garlic we grab off shelves in the grocery store or from farmers' market tables has been through quite an extensive postharvest process. Once the bulbs reach a good size in the ground, and before the papery wrapper starts to deteriorate, farmers take it and whisk it into a cool, dry place, far away from sunlight; heat changes the flavor of garlic, so the darker, the better. Then it hangs out (literally) for approximately two weeks. By the end of this "curing" period, the cloves have drawn in lots of good nutrients from the leaves, and the bulbs are ready for long-term storage. When kept in a cool (60 to 65 degree F), dry place, bulbs can stay fresh for more than eight months.

In one box alone, I received eight bulbs, and the farm promised many more to come throughout the season. What was I going to do with all this garlic, besides repel Robert Pattinson (something, it goes without saying, that I don't want to do at all)?

Two words: garlic confit.

Confiting means submerging and cooking food in a substance (usually fat in the case of duck or goose, sometimes sugar in the case of fruit) that will preserve it and add flavor. The benefits of confited garlic are threefold. The garlic gets preserved and tender, and its flavor is mellowed. But you also get a by-product almost as wonderful as bacon fat: garlic oil.

What can you do with this confited garlic?

1)      Buzz with a blender and whisk into vegetable purées.

2)      Thicken sauces with it, instead of using a roux (added flavor = always better!).

3)      Add whole cloves to tomato sauce toward the end of simmering.

4)      Whisk into vinaigrette for a delicate garlic flavor.

5)      Crostini it along with a slice of cheese or a roasted vegetable for an unusual hors d'oeuvre.

6)      Warm gently and smear over a piece of toast for a delectable garlic bread.

And what about that garlic oil? Just use it in place of olive oil (but be sure to taste as you add, to monitor for too harsh of a flavor):

1)      Sauté greens with it.

2)      Toss with pasta.

3)      Use in vinaigrettes.

4)      Add to marinades.

5)      Dunk bread in it, and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Of course, dried garlic will stay good, under proper conditions, for quite some time as well, so if you prefer raw to confited garlic, more power to you. Just beware of the breath problems. And the anti-Pattinson effect.

Garlic Confit Recipe

Garlic cloves, peeled (however many you have)

Neutral-tasting oil, like canola or grapeseed

In a saucepan, cover garlic cloves with one inch of oil. Cook over low heat for approximately one hour, until garlic is tender, but without color. (Make sure the heat is on very low—just a few bubbles should be coming up from the bottom of the pan.) Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate.