Every Autumn, I plant myself a gift to harvest—a gift of garlic. I order seed bulbs from Keene Garlic, a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, that specializes in heirloom and organic varieties. I love experimenting with different kinds, and prefer those with a more mellow taste to stronger ones. Last year, we planted 18 cultivars before the first frost. Most are hard-neck, such as ‘Amish Rocambole’ and ‘Purple Glazer’, which yield large cloves around a stiff inner stalk. The rest are soft-neck, like ‘Inchelium Red’, producing cloves of varying sizes. By early summer, curly green stems called scapes form on each plant. They have a sweet, mild garlicky flavor and are prized by chefs. I like to add them, finely chopped, to an omelet or as a flavoring to summer soups and pastas.
Garlic is ready to pick when the outer leaves have browned and dried and about five green leaves remain. Just pull the highly nutritious, plump bulbs out of the earth and dust them off, then cure them by drying them for several weeks in a cool, dark spot with good air circulation, until their parchment-like coverings can be peeled back. They are then ready to use. Store the rest in the pantry. They should last for months. Here are recipes for a flavorful confit and three additional dishes—toast, pasta, and stuffed artichokes. I know your family, like mine, will adore them.
Heads of garlic and sprigs of thyme cook low and slow in a bath of olive oil in the oven. The rich confit that results enlivens all kinds of dishes, including the three below.
Garlic confit is spread onto toasted rustic bread, then topped with sweet Campari tomatoes, and for a hit of brightness, fresh parsley.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
Butter is the secret to making restaurant-level pasta at home. Adding garlic confit and lemon zest to that finishing pat of butter takes this spaghetti with clams to the next level. Break the no-seafood-and-cheese rule and shower with Parmigiano-Reggiano before serving.
Artichokes Stuffed with Capers and Cornichons
That same roasted-garlic butter is used to toast the breadcrumbs that gild these steamed artichokes. The tender vegetables are also filled with a punchy mixture of capers, cornichons, and lemon juice.