As garlic roasts, its pungent, aggressive flavor mellows, and the cloves turn into a nutty, sweet, almost buttery spread that's delicious when slathered on crusty bread as a simple appetizer.
Look for a medium to large bulb (also called a head) of garlic for roasting. Larger cloves are easier to separate and provide more garlic paste per clove. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top 1/2 inch of the garlic bulb to expose the ends of the individual cloves. Leaving the garlic bulb whole, remove any loose, papery outer layers.
Tip: One medium garlic bulb yields about 15 cloves garlic or about 1 tablespoon of garlic paste. You can roast multiple bulbs at once.
Place the bulb, cut end up, on a double thickness of foil or in a custard cup or small baking dish. Drizzle bulb with 1 tablespoon olive oil. If desired, season with salt and pepper. Bring foil up and around bulb and fold edges together to loosely enclose. If using a custard cup or baking dish, cover with foil.
Roast the garlic in a preheated 400°F oven about 25 minutes or until garlic feels soft when squeezed. Cool slightly before handling.
You can serve the paste warm or cooled to room temperature. For an appetizer, serve the whole bulb warm with slices of baguette or crackers for spreading; add a wedge of cheese, if desired. Use the tip of a small knife to remove the paste from each clove. To use roasted garlic in cooking, squeeze the cooled bulb from the bottom of the papery husk, and the garlic paste will pop out.
1. Mix roasted garlic paste with a little olive oil and toss with hot cooked pasta and grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese.
2. Stir it into plain soft-style cream cheese, add a little softened butter, and season with a sprinkle of snipped fresh thyme and rosemary or Italian seasoning. Spread onto crackers or toasted or grilled baguette slices.
3. Add it to a vinaigrette made with one part red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar to two parts olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Combine it with softened butter and rub over a roasting chicken.
5. Toss it into tomato sauce or pesto and use as a sauce for pizza.
6. Stir it into olive oil or butter, add a squeeze of lemon, and toss with hot cooked new potatoes, asparagus, carrots, or a veggie mélange.
Prep garlic bulb as directed for roasting except fold a 20x12-inch piece of heavy foil in half crosswise. Place garlic bulb, cut end up, in center of foil square and drizzle with the oil. Bring up opposite edges of the foil and seal with a double fold. Fold remaining edges together to completely enclose garlic, leaving space for steam to build. For a charcoal grill, arrange preheated coals around edge of grill. Test for medium heat. Place garlic on the grill rack in center of grill. Grill, covered, about 30 minutes or until garlic feels soft when packet is squeezed. For a gas grill: Preheat grill. Adjust heat for indirect grilling. Reduce heat to medium. Place garlic on the grill rack over unlit side. Cover and grill as above.