Roasted garlic a fat-free way to dress up food

Posted: July 26, 2007

If you think healthy eating condemns you to bland, flavorless foods, you've clearly never tried roasted garlic.

Roasting a head of garlic not only is an almost effortless way to mellow its harsh bite, it also creates a lush, concentrated puree perfect for dressing up all manner of foods.

"For the diet-conscious, it is a godsend," said Barbara Kafka, author of the cookbook "Roasting: A Simple Art."

"Its sticky texture and round feel in the mouth substitute divinely for fat and [it] also helps ingredients and flavors bind together."

To roast garlic, start with heads of garlic that have all the cloves intact and are tightly wrapped in the papery skin.

Feel the weight of the head of garlic; the heavier the better, as this indicates an abundance of the flavor-packed essential oils.

To roast the garlic, remove as much of the papery outer layer as possible without separating the cloves. Next, slice about 1/2-inch off the top of the head, exposing the tops of the individual cloves.

Place the garlic on a square of foil and sprinkle with a tablespoon of water.

Loosely wrap the garlic in the foil, then pinch the edges together. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Unwrap and let the garlic cool slightly before squeezing the now pulpy cloves from garlic casings.

Roasted garlic can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for four to five days. Here are some other ways to use roasted garlic:

_ Dress up a jar of store-bought tomato sauce by blending it with roasted garlic and chopped herbs.

_ Make a white bean dip by pureeing the pulp from a head of roasted garlic, a can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Here's a recipe that is similar to Caesar salad dressing but with about a quarter of the fat.

CREAMY ROASTED GARLIC DRESSING

2 large heads garlic, roasted and cooled

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 anchovy fillets, rinsed

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper, to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine the roasted garlic pulp, yogurt, cheese, oil, lemon juice, mustard and anchovies. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 16 servings (about 1 cup total).

Toss it with some chopped hearts of romaine lettuce and top with whole-grain croutons. The dressing can be made up to two days in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

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