Make the most of garlic season with savoury spaghetti and phyllo dishes
You can stock up on Alberta garlic now and freeze it to last through the winter with these handy tips
We grow some fantastic garlic in Alberta.
In farmers' markets everywhere, there are purple heads of largely red Russian garlic, a hardneck variety that's popular with farmers and home gardeners.
Hardneck garlic has enormous, potent cloves, and fewer of them per head. They also bolt in the spring, producing smooth green scapes you can trim and use in dishes like you might use onions and garlic, a few weeks before it's time to harvest the real thing.
The last couple weeks of September is the time to plant cloves because you want to give the plants enough time to establish roots before the ground freezes.
Many gardeners suggest saving some of the cloves you've grown to plant for the following year, as often new bulbs don't produce for a year or two.
Separate the cloves right before you plant them, don't bother peeling them, and stick them in the dirt pointy side up, about three inches deep and spaced six to eight inches apart.
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Now that we have access to the good stuff, how to ensure we have a stash through the winter?
You can store whole heads of garlic in a cool, dark, dry place — not in the refrigerator — and you can freeze whole raw bulbs in their skins, or peeled or unpeeled individual cloves that can be chopped.
Just make sure it's well-wrapped, perhaps in a ziplock bag tucked into another container, to ensure your entire freezer doesn't become infused with garlic.
Roasted garlic also freezes well, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Slice the stem end off whole heads and wrap in a square of foil, drizzled with oil if you like, and roast in the oven (on a sheet, in ramekins, or directly on the oven rack) at 350 to 400 F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the garlic is very soft and golden.
You can stash it in its foil packet in the fridge to squeeze into just about anything you'd add garlic to.
You could also make a compound butter by grating or crushing fresh garlic and mixing it into soft butter, shaping it into a log and storing in the freezer.
This protects it from freezer burn, and I like adding garlic at the same point I'd add butter at the beginning of a dish, because you don't want the garlic to burn.
You can slice a chunk directly off the log into whatever it is you're making.
- Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal's full interview on the Calgary Eyeopener below to hear all about garlic.
Another preserving method is a garlic confit. Fancier than it sounds, you only need to put a bunch of peeled cloves into a small saucepan, cover it with canola or olive oil and heat just until it's shimmering.
Poach the cloves really low for about half an hour, or until they're tender, then cool and keep in a jar in the fridge.
You then have this stash of garlicky oil and soft, mellowed garlic you can add directly to recipes.
Toast Crumb and Garlic Spaghetti
One of my favourite things to do with sourdough bread ends is to tear or whiz them into crumbs (if the bread is frozen, you can grate it into crumbs, too), cook the crumbs until crisp in garlicky oil, and toss them with pasta.
(From Dirty Food, by Julie Van Rosendaal.)
250 g dry spaghetti (about enough for 4)
2-4 slices white bread (or 1-2 cups fresh crumbs)
1-2 big garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup (ish) butter
2 Tbsp (ish) olive oil
pinch red chilli flakes
freshly grated Parmesan
Cook the spaghetti in a big pot of salted water until al dente, and scoop out about a cup of the cooking water before you drain it.
Meanwhile, whiz your bread into rough crumbs, along with the garlic, in a food processor.
Set a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and oil and when the butter starts to foam, add the garlicky breadcrumbs and chili flakes and cook, stirring, until toasty and golden.
Scoop about half of the crumbs out of the pan, add the drained pasta and toss to coat with the remaining crumbs, grating some parmesan overtop and adding a splash of the starchy pasta water to moisten.
Serve topped with the reserved crumbs and extra parmesan.
Borek with Garlicky Greens
Borek refers to a family of stuffed, baked phyllo dishes.
I was reminded of it visiting Anatolia Turkish Cuisine over at the Crossroads Market on the weekend.
It's simple to make, especially when you have a surplus of greens (spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, beet greens) and garlic, or leftover roasted winter squash, zucchini or root vegetables.
canola or olive oil, for cooking
a chunk of butter (optional)
1 small onion (or a few green onions), chopped
1-2 bunches chard, kale or spinach
2-3 garlic cloves
crumbled feta or soft goat cheese
phyllo pastry (thawed if frozen)
melted butter or olive oil
za'atar or poppyseed (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of oil (and a chunk of butter, if you like) and cook the onion for a few minutes, until soft.
Chop and add the chard stems and cook, crushing and adding a clove or two of garlic too, until the stems are soft.
Chop and add the leaves and some salt and cook until wilted.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Stir in some crumbled feta — as much or as little as you like.
Peel or crush the remaining garlic clove, and put it into a little bowl or ramekin with some melted butter or oil.
To assemble the borek, unroll the phyllo and remove one sheet. Cover the rest as it waits.
Brush all over with the garlicky butter or oil, and spread some of the wilted greens and feta in a strip down one long side.
Roll it up like a cigar, and twist into a coil.
Place in a shallow baking dish or ovenproof skillet, or onto a baking sheet. Repeat until you have no more filling left.
Brush the coils with a little more butter or oil, and if you like, sprinkle with za'atar or poppyseed.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until deep golden.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener