Caveman Cuisine: Oven-Roasted Caramelized Garlic
In Stuart Florida, there is a small family-owned Italian restaurant named Casa Bella. Situated in a former residential home, the dining experience evokes the intimate feeling of eating at the house of a friend or relative. Once seated, a warm loaf of crusty Italian bread is brought out along with a whole roasted head of garlic. Prepared simply with olive oil, the garlic is soft and spreadable, like room temperature butter. Caramelized, the garlic's raw pungency is softened, replaced by an earthly sweetness.
The first time I experienced this delicious rendition of garlic, I was awe-struck. Still a teenager at the time, and aware that fine dining opportunities were a rare opportunity, I was surprised at the utter simplicity of this signature dish. At lesser establishments, the appetizers seemed more complicated, more elaborate, yet this combination of garlic, olive oil, and heat was superior in terms of both flavor and emotional impact.
We may have gone to Casa Bella on one or more occasions after that, but the memory that persists is that of the buttery soft cloves of garlic surrendering at the slightest pressure of the knife. In the passage of years, I have come to acquire a practical set of cooking skills and have an even deeper appreciation for what the dish represented.
The art of cooking is often a matter of parsing away excess; finding an object of inspiration, and allowing it's essence to be revealed.
1 whole clove of organic garlic
1-2 tbsp high-quality olive oil (check out Kasandrinos Imports for a reliable source)
Set your oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of the bulb, exposing the tip of each individual clove. Peel away any excess skin, and place the garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap the bulb with the foil, twisting the excess aluminum foil together at the top. Put in the oven on a baking sheet and allow it to cook for 20-30 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly before opening, as hot steam and oil may escape when it is fresh out of the oven.