Roast garlic and keep it on hand

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Slow-roasting mellows garlic, making it soft and buttery sweet. If you roast a few heads whenever you fire up the oven, you’ll always have a supply of what may become your favorite condiment.

Mix roasted garlic into mashed potatoes, spread it on bread or pizza crust, swirl it into soups, add it to vegetables and pasta, serve it with roasted meat or stir it into vinaigrette or mayonnaise for a sandwich spread.

These days, I can’t imagine not having a head or two of roasted garlic in my refrigerator – tightly sealed in a screw-top jar, as I learned the hard way, or the fridge will take on a garlic odor.

Here are more tips:

Use fresh garlic, not old bulbs that have begun sprouting.

To avoid burning, don’t roast at more than 350 degrees.

When ready to use, pop the garlic out of its papery shell with a push from the bottom; it mashes easily with a fork.

For recipes that require whole roasted cloves, separate and peel them raw, then roast.

Refrigerate roasted garlic for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to two months.

How to roast garlic

Place oven rack in lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove outer layers of papery skin from four firm garlic heads.

Slice off the top 1/3 of each head, exposing most of the cloves.

Place garlic heads, cut side up, on a square of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Drizzle ½ teaspoon olive oil over each, and sprinkle with salt.

Wrap foil around heads, and roast until very soft, about 1 hour.

Uncover and roast 15 minutes more, until golden brown.

Carole Kotkin answers cooking questions at www.miamiherald.com/living; click Food. She is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” Contact her: food@MiamiHerald.com.



BOW-TIE PASTA WITH ROASTED GARLIC AND EGGPLANT

1-1/2 pounds eggplant (2 small or 1 large), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 head roasted garlic (see box)

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced

1 pound bow-tie, rigatoni or other medium-size pasta

3 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 2 tablespoons of the oil onto both sides of the eggplant slices; season with salt and pepper. Place on 2 baking sheets, making sure slices don’t touch. Roast until nicely browned, 20 to 25 minutes. When cool enough to handle, dice and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Squeeze the garlic pulp into a large serving bowl with the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, mashing to blend. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta to the boiling water; cook according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Add pasta to bowl along with eggplant and mozzarella; toss to combine. Add cooking water as needed to loosen sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Williams Sonoma Food Made Fast: Pasta” by Julia Della Croce (Oxmoor, $17.95).

Per serving (based on 4): 729 calories (34 percent from fat), 27.9 g fat (6.4 g saturated, 16.7 g monounsaturated), 18.9 mg cholesterol, 21.7 g protein, 99.3 g carbohydrates, 8.3 g fiber, 110.5 mg sodium.

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