Green garlic appears between Purim and Passover. I ride the bus to the shuk, clutching my wheeled shopping cart so other passengers don’t get their legs tangled up in it, and think of what I’ll be cooking with garlic. But I return by taxi, because the load is too heavy to shlep home alone. Levi, my big son, goes with me and loads the odorous loot into the shopping cart, and then the cart into a taxi.
This year’s was 20 kg heavy – almost 45 lb. – and will see my family through the entire year, accounting for some inevitable loss.
Today’s taxi driver was a young, hip type wearing blue mirror shades. “What do you do with so much garlic?” he wanted to know.
I couldn’t resist giving him a lecture on confit. First, I explained, if you hang the garlic up in ropes, in a shady place, it dries and lasts until next season. But the thing to do with garlic before it dries, when it’s fresh and juicy, is to slow-cook it, covered in olive oil and flavored with herbs and spices. Confit, a word borrowed from the French.
You can confit other vegetables, like tomatoes, or bell peppers, or poultry, or even salmon. You can also confit dry garlic.
But for me, confit is that green garlic. We’re all crazy about in my house.
The garlic loses its sting and gains a slight sweetness while it’s cooking, and taking its time to absorb the flavors of the herbs you tossed in with it. The leftover oil is infused with all that garlicky, herbal goodness and makes a fabulous cooking fat. Stovetop popcorn made with garlic confit oil is unbelievably delicious.
“Makes you want to lick your fingers,” he said, grinning at me in his mirror. He helped me unload the unwieldy shopping cart, which promptly unbalanced and fell over.
“Ach,” he said, and hoisted it up the stairs and put it in the elevator for me. Didn’t charge extra, just wished me a happy Passover and gave me another blue-mirrored grin before loping off. Two more reasons I love living in Israel: green garlic in the spring, and helpful people.
Start by peeling your fresh garlic. Slice off the scapes (the green stems), but press your thumb on the part closest to the head to locate bumps. Those bumps are little garlic cloves hiding inside, just as good as the big ones in the head. In the photo below, you can see a garlic bump on the scape lying next to the peeled cloves.
Extract the little cloves and dry them to chuck whole into soups and stews. Keep a few of the scapes for cooking; they’re not good to eat, but use them as you do bay leaves, for flavor.
When garlic is fresh and tender, the cloves almost peel themselves.
Cover the cloves in plenty of olive oil. Drop in the seasonings you like best. Don’t confine your confit to the flavorings listed below: use any of your favorite herbs and spices. A small sprig of rosemary, a little oregano, hot peppers, basil, even a sun-dried tomato or two marry with garlic confit.
I’ve used them all at different times. The recipe below is one of my favorites, but feel easy using it as a guide to give you an idea of how it works.
Cook the confit either in the oven in a covered casserole, or on the stove. Either way, set the heat to minimum. If cooking on the stove top, place a heat diffusing pad under the pan.
Then let it go for a couple of hours, or longer. The garlic should be soft and squishy inside its shell. If your garlic is fresh-from-this-morning, the white peel may be soft enough to eat too.
How do you eat garlic confit? You push the pointy stem end of each tender clove with the flat of a table knife, and the flesh will slip out of the root end. Spread this garlic paté on bread, or on roast chicken or fish, or mix it with mashed potatoes.
We like to spread it on challah. Sometimes I blend one or two clove’s worth of confit with eggs I intend to scramble.
When your confit is done cooking, it will look like this:
Set it out at room temperature about half an hour before serving and the oil will liquify again. Garlic confit, with its oil, can be stored in the refrigerator up to two months. You can also freeze it for 6 months.
Like the recipe? Have another suggestion for fresh garlic? Drop a comment: click on the red box that reads REVIEW below to the left, and you’ll be in comment land.