- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Garlic in its raw form can be overpowering, but in recent years, we’ve learned to tame it and coax out some of its underlying sweetness.

We’ve roasted it before adding it to recipes. We’ve also learned that slowly poaching it in milk or stock makes it soft and sweet.

Once poached, it can be stored, tightly covered (or else everything in the refrigerator will take on a garlic scent), for a week or two.

We can use the garlic cloves whole or puree them with the milk or stock that they’ve been poached in and have a wonderful concentrated condiment to add to soups, sauces or whatever.

Here is a version of a simple puree I sampled years ago in Greece, served with spit-roasted lamb. The Greek family I was with served it as a condiment to dollop onto the juicy slices of lamb as we ate.

Milk-poached garlic, beans and lemon

Don’t let the amount of garlic scare you. 4 large whole heads of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves

1 cup milk

⅔ cup cooked gigante, garbanzo or cannellini beans

cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Drops of hot red pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, chives or basil, optional

Rinse garlic well, and add it and the milk to a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering for 25 minutes or until garlic is very soft. Stir occasionally, and make sure heat is at a bare simmer — or milk can burn.

Strain mixture, reserving the milk. Cool, and squeeze the root end of the garlic to remove it from its papery shell. Add garlic and milk to a food processor or blender, along with the beans, lemon juice and zest, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Puree to desired consistency. (I like this blend smooth but with a hint of texture.) Season to taste with drops of hot red pepper sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Make at least 1 hour ahead so that flavors have a chance to blend. (Puree can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to five days.) Bring back to near room temperature before serving.

At serving time, stir in herbs, if desired, and drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Makes about 2 cups.

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