Fermented Black Garlic

It has been a busy summer, with tons of visitors, a full apartment, and a jam-packed schedule. But at long last, one night last week I had my place to myself. Chops was still working, and I decided to cook something weird just for myself.

I found fermented black garlic at the co-op, and my curiosity was piqued as I began to research how it was used. It’s typically found in Asian cuisine, but is also said to be rich in anti-oxidants and is sometimes touted as a health food, which is surprising because as I peeled back the bulbs, it didn’t really look like something I should be eating:

Peeled Black Garlic

1. Resorting to Risotto
I found a recipe that, interestingly enough, uses black garlic in risotto. Here’s the link:

http://www.offthemeathook.com/2009/07/20/recipe-risotto-with-black-garlic-and-oyster-mushrooms/

I wish I had thought to use sake in place of the white wine in the recipe to continue bring together an Italian-Asian melange.

Having never made risotto before, I had always thought the creamy consistency of the rice was the result of oodles and oodles of cream and butter, but was surprised that the vast majority of the liquid in the recipe is chicken broth, and that the creamy consistency of the risotto is a characteristic of the Arborio rice. Arborio rice has a higher starch content than most traditional rices grains. When cooked, this starch is released, helping to create the creamy consistency that makes risotto so wonderful.

2. Black Cloves
When it came time to add the cloves of black garlic to the risotto, I was surprised after completely peeling them to find that their consistently was soft, and that the fragrance of garlic seemed to be amplified, and it wafted unwaveringly into my nose. It wasn’t an over-powering smell, but definitely stronger than I was expecting.

Fermented black garlic peeled and laying on a cutting board

The cloves themselves stuck to my knife as I attempted to dice them, and although the comparison is unappetizing, I began to feel like a witch chopping up leeches for her brew.

Once the risotto was ready, I spooned a helping into a bowl, topped it with mushrooms, and garnished with steamed kale I had made on the side. I sprinkled a few drops of black truffle oil over the dish to help enhance the earthy, delicately sweet notes of both the fermented black garlic and the mushrooms.

Mushroom and black garlic risotto

3. The Verdict
After the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks, I sat down to dinner in the quiet, sunny evening hours of summer in Seattle. A breeze blew through the open windows in my living room and kitchen, giving some relief to the heat of the stove top range. I poured myself a glass of chardonnay and sat on my couch enjoying the silence, my meal, and a night to myself.

Fiddle Head Ferns

I came across these pretty ladies at the Ballard Farmer’s Market this weekend:

Lady Fiddle Head Ferns on a market table

I couldn’t resist. For my first official blog post, they seemed like a pretty safe bet. Nothing terrible has ever come out of something so green and cute and curly, right? I bought half a pound for $5.00, and then began looking into fiddlehead ferns. As it turns out, these ladies have a duplicitous personality–they’re either toxic or tender. When raw, they contain a toxin that can cause terrible stomach pain, so they must be heated and prepared properly before they’re eaten.

A lot of what I read agreed with the sign on the marketeers table that said fiddleheads are great blanched and fried with bacon. I also came across an angel hair pasta and fiddlehead fern recipe. I decided to combine the two ideas, and made fettuccine carbonara guest starring fiddlehead ferns.

1: Blanching

I laid out a pretty solid rule in the first post about not killing Chops or myself. In keeping with that rule, it was important to blanch the fern tips before I did anything else with them. I trimmed off the brown parts and discarded any curls that weren’t tightly formed. (I read that the tips that aren’t tightly curled could be more likely to carry food-bourne illness. It was only one website, so it could be complete hogwash, but better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.) They frolicked around in boiling water for 4min and emerged fresh, clean, and much more tender:

Steamed Fiddlehead Ferns

2: Pasta!

I used the following recipe as the general guideline for making the fettuccini carbonara:
http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-pasta-carbonara-170893

I added one additional step: once the bacon had been fried to my liking, I sauteed the fiddle head ferns in the rendered fat until tender.

Frying Fiddlehead Ferns

Once some of the smaller tendrils started losing their shape, I considered them done, drained away the excess grease, and served.

3: The Verdict

Fettuccini Carbonara with Fiddlehead Ferns

“Well, what do you think?” I asked Chops after his first few bites.
“I think I like it. They kind of have a little earthy taste to them. What do you think?”
“I like them. The ones that aren’t quite cooked enough have  a bitter taste to them, though.”
“I’ve definitely gotten one or two that are bitter. But the texture’s good. They’re kind of like little curled up asparaguses.”
“That makes total sense. I read they can be used as a substitute for asparagus in a lot of recipes.”
“Do they have the interactive pee smell?”
“The interactive pee smell?”
“Yeah, how asparagus makes your pee smell funny! You forget that you ate it, and then go to the bathroom and it’s like, OH YEAH! HELLLLLO ASPARAGUS! Will these do that?”
I started laughing. “You know, I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to find out.”

Sometime around 3am, I felt Chops get up out of bed. I took a quick sip of water before dozing off again. A minute or so later, he climbed back into bed and nudged me a little.
“Hmph,” I said.
“You know. I have to say, my pee did smell a little different.”