Smashed elephant garlic on toast with smoked paprika and cumin

Arthur Poulos and Lucie Gouin, owners of La Terra Vita Farms in Scio, Oregon, proudly--and beautifully--showcase their harvest in a wide corner space of the Portland Farmers Market.  They have a wide variety of potatoes, onions, leeks and pastured eggs. One Saturday, I noticed a basket of what I know as elephant garlic. Arthur had labeled it "roasting garlic," and so I asked him, why the different name? His reply? "Because you roast it!" Another silly chef question, I guess. I respect the sales technique behind the name, but disagree with the label as I poach the large garlic cloves in several changes of water in order to break down the fiber and sweeten the flesh.

This recipe does just that, offering a technique for poaching that turns the gigantic cloves into a spreadable paste that's accented with smoked--or sweet--paprika, cumin and lemon. You can use standard-size heads of garlic for an equally delicious result, but three heads of garlic and lots of peeling will be required. 

MAKES 12 to 16 TOASTS to serve 4 to 8

 

Ingredients

1 large head elephant or "roasting" garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1/4 cup olive oil 

2 lemons, zested and juiced 

1 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika 

1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and coarsely ground

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, or a pinch of cayenne

12 slices baguette or bread with a firm crumb, toasted or grilled

 

PROCEDURE

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the peeled garlic cloves, reduce the heat slightly and boil 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the garlic and repeat the process 3 or 4 more times, until the cloves are soft to the touch. Set the drained cloves aside to cool. 

Place the cooled garlic in a mortar or a small bowl and add the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, paprika, cumin, salt and ground pepper. Using the pestle, a fork or a spoon, smash the garlic cloves into a spreadable paste. Taste the paste and adjust seasonings. 

Spread the garlic paste on grilled or toasted bread and serve.

The garlic paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.