When you roast garlic, the sharp-tasting sulfur compounds break down and the sugars caramelize, imparting sweetness. Slowly cooking garlic in olive oil is an easy and efficient way for the home cook to get the results of roasting, and it imparts a wonderful flavor to the oil. You can also roast garlic in the oven, either in its skin or peeled on a baking dish with a dash of oil. Make extra and smear it on toast or use it in Crispy Sage and Roasted Garlic Risotto (opposite). If you’d like this spread to be more pungent, you can always add a little bit of raw garlic.
• 3/4 cup dried cannellini or navy beans, enough to make 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked
• 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for garnish
• 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
• 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves or 2 tablespoons dried
• 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Soak beans for at least 8 hours in enough water to cover them by 6 inches.
2. Drain beans and transfer to a saucepan with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to boil, skim any foam off the top, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer, covered, stirring every 10 minutes, until beans are soft through, about 45 to 60 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep beans covered.
3. While beans are cooking, combine oil and garlic pieces in a small pan or skillet. Heat over low heat, stirring every few minutes, until garlic is golden brown and soft, 10 to 15 minutes once the oil gets hot. If the oil gets too hot and sputters or begins to brown garlic too quickly, remove pan from heat and let cool for a moment before returning to stovetop.
4. When the beans are done, drain them. Put them in a food processor with oil and garlic, rosemary, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Serve garnished with a drizzle of oil and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
Learn more about growing garlic in Using Healthful, Pungent Garlic.
Brittany Wood Nickerson shares her experience in herbal medicine and professional cooking through her business, Thyme Herbal. This is an excerpt from her book Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, available in the Heirloom Gardener store.