Did you know that April 19 is National Garlic Day? Heck, there is even a website dedicated to National Garlic Day: www.nationalgarlicday.com. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like garlic. And garlic isn’t just for cooking. Garlic has many uses. It been known to repel mosquitoes (as well as vampires!), boost overall immunity and expel pesky parasites. Garlic also has a history of use as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, killing bacteria, fungus, viruses and mold.
Experts in modern holistic medicine claim that garlic can be an effective remedy for heart problems by preventing clotting, lowering “bad” cholesterol, and keeping the heart healthy by keeping the blood free-flowing through the arteries. Turns out the odoriferous little nugget might be an important ally for natural health!
But let’s get to cooking. I think the addition of the right amount of garlic can make just about any savory dish sing. It even works with some desserts. No kidding. I made a killer dark chocolate brownie that uses black garlic as an ingredient to add a rich “umami.” I served the rich slab o’ goodness with a Southern Comfort infused whipped cream. Heaven. (Recipe follows.)
What? You’ve never heard of black garlic? What exactly is it, you ask? Some people mistakenly believe it’s an exotic variety of garlic (there are over 300 varieties of garlic grown all over the world), but that’s incorrect. It’s just normal garlic, like we grow here in California, that’s been aged and fermented under the perfect conditions. The fermented dark cloves have a sort of jellied texture similar to that of dried fruit. The cloves have a savory sweet taste, and an odd burnt molasses undertone. It’s weird, for sure, but definitely fun to experiment with.
If you’re a true garlic lover, you might be interested to know that there are festivals all around the world that celebrate the pungent bulb. And according to Reuters, The Gilroy Garlic Festival, held each year in my home state of California, in the small agricultural town of Gilroy, is the top-rated garlic festival in the world, beating out garlic festivals in Italy (L’aglio di Voghiera), New York (Hudson Valley Garlic Festival), Britain (Isle of Wight Garlic Festival), and France (La Foire à l’ail Fumé d’Arleux), just to name a few.
Serious competitive cooks know that the Gilroy Garlic Festival is the home of the annual Great Garlic Recipe Contest and Cook-off, one of the most prestigious and well-known cook-offs in the country. I can attest to the fact that it’s also one of the most well-organized, well done and most entertaining and enjoyable cook-offs to participate in, as well! I was a contestant in the 2012 cook-off in July of last year and my recipe, Crispy Pork Belly with Caramelized Onion and Fig Agrodolce and Creamy Polenta won the Grand Prize!
I walked away with $1,000 and the much coveted Garlic Crown! There were 8 competitors in all and the recipes were all fantastic. There was even a dessert in the mix: Triple Garlic Mini Cheesecakes, which included garlic in the crust, the filling and the nutty topping. Sounds crazy, right? Well, I didn’t get to taste the cheesecake, but you know it had to be tasty to make it to the competition as a finalist.
The 2013 Festival will be held on July 26-28, 2013. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Festival. Hope to see you there!
Scroll down for the black garlic brownie recipe:
Dark Chocolate Chili and Black Garlic Brownies
- 2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish
- 4 cloves black garlic, peeled and mashed
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with enough foil so that the foil extends a few inches over 2 sides of the pan (this will make it easy to lift the brownies out after baking). Butter the foil.
Put chocolate and butter in a microwavable glass bowl and heat in microwave at half power for 30 second intervals, removing the bowl and stirring between each interval until chocolate and butter are completely melted. Remove the melted chocolate and butter from the microwave and add the mashed black garlic. Stir vigorously just for a few seconds to distribute the garlic throughout the mixture and break up any clumps of the garlic.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, chile powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Pour the chocolate mixture into a medium mixing bowl and stir in sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until smooth. If you are in the mood for chocolate overload, you can throw in some semi-sweet chocolate pieces at this point and fold them in. Do not overmix the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake just until the top of the brownies begins to look dried and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with moist crumbs but no raw batter sticking to it, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan for 10 minutes and then use the foil on the sides to lift the brownies out and place on a rack to cool completely. Peel off the foil and cut the brownies into 16 squares. Serve with Southern Comfort Whipped Cream, if desired.
Southern Comfort Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream, cold
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Southern Comfort (or more . . .)
In a large mixing bowl, place all the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Chill the whisk beater alongside the bowl, too.) Beat the mixture until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat.