We recently hosted a raclette dinner party at our house, and while the toasty bread, melted raclette cheese, roasted potatoes, and tangy cornichons delighted, my secret ingredient, a lightly toasted bulb of black garlic spread on toast, utterly captivated me.
What is black garlic? Black garlic is simply garlic that has slowly aged without any additives—the cloves turn a very dark brown in the aging process. Some celebrate black garlic as a health food, due, in part, to the presence of allicin and diallyl sulphides in garlic. Others simply cherish the caramelized, umami flavor of black garlic. Black garlic is softer and sweeter than raw garlic, and it lacks some of the strong odor and pungency it has in its raw state.
So why did a bulb of roasted black garlic sidle its way in to our raclette dinner? I found a new local source for it. Blue Fortune Farm is a certified organic farm in southern Wisconsin, where farmers Mike and Karen are producing about 1000 lbs. annually of black garlic in a high-humidity warming oven.
“I was out in DC, and I had some black garlic at a Thai restaurant. I tried it, and it was great, but they said they were importing it,” said Mike from Blue Fortune Farm. “I had been growing garlic here, and made a commitment to start making black garlic.”
Last year Blue Fortune Farm planted five acres of garlic. Their goal is to grow 20 acres of garlic, but first they have a few other goals to meet, like purchasing a tractor, explained Mike from Blue Fortune Farm.
I read that in Taoist mythology, black garlic was rumored to grant immortality. I’m no expert on immortality, but I do know that if you whip up a batch of pasta aglio e olio using black garlic, you’ll have a meal that your guests will never forget.
Pasta Aglio e Olio
Preparation: 15 minutes
1 pound of pasta
½ cup olive oil
6-10 cloves of black garlic, crushed
Red pepper flakes
Bring a pot of salted water to a hard boil. Add your pasta (I like spaghetti for this dish).
In a separate pan, heat ½ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add several cloves of chopped black garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2 minutes, just enough to warm the black garlic in the oil. Set aside.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and toss it with the olive oil and garlic mixture. If you want to garnish it, add a bit of chopped Italian parsley and pecorino cheese.