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Why is it that Asian ingredients that are “good for you” are so darn ugly and nasty sounding? Mom used to feed me and my brother bird’s nest soup, chilled frog jelly soup and countless other strange protein specimens that would probably make you wonder how I’m still alive today.
The latest “it” ingredient is aged black garlic. It’s matte-black and gooey-soft with a chewyishy texture. It’s the new plaything of gourmet restaurant kitchens across the U.S.. and its recent appearance on Top Chef and Iron Chef television shows created newfound fame for this otherwise frightful thing. Trust me, if you found this on your kitchen counter and didn’t know that it was supposed to be black, you’d probably think it was rotten.
Well, good thing it’s not rotten, but rather “aged,” a more pleasant way to describe the process of letting time and temperature do its thing. I spoke with Scott Kim, CEO of Black Garlic, Inc. and he told me that garlic heads either grown in Korea or California are put into a machine he invented which fluctuates temperature and humidity for thirty days. What results is supposedly a garlic that has twice the antioxidants as regular garlic.
I think there’s a lot of misinformation and mystery about black garlic – some articles hint that black garlic has been used for hundreds of years in Korea and Japan as a superfood and Kim claims to have invented the machine a handful of years ago after a story he heard from someone in the garlic business in Korea. I asked, “Is the black garlic exposed to light source in his machine (as I’ve read online)?” Kim answered no.
I asked him how people used to make black garlic before his magical machine and he told me he didn’t know. How do they make black garlic in Japan? He didn’t know either. The scientific study done in Korea of the antioxidant level is not available online, though Kim did offer to send me information in Korean.
So, I’m highly skeptical on its superfood status and the origins of black garlic until I can find more information. But there’s one thing I’m sure of – and that is I love the taste of black garlic. It’s sweet, mild, caramelly and reminds me of molasses. When you bite into a raw clove, you don’t get the harsh-hit-you-in-the-face that regular garlic has. It’s smooth, soft and the garlic flavor is mellowed out times one-hundred.
I was lucky enough to get a few heads to play with from my friend Chef David Eger of Earthy.com (and in exchange I let him use the photo of black garlic that I shot), where they sell four ounces of black garlic for $10.00. I’ve sliced a few cloves (as best as I could…it’s so soft that it’s difficult to slice), fried them in olive oil with scallops and it was dynamo.
Black Garlic at our Blogger Playdate
My friends, Chef Mark and Jennifer of The Culinary Media Network in New York made a bruschetta out of a few cloves for our dinner party and guests could not stop eating it. I had to steal bruschetta off of people’s plates just to get a photograph of it! If you want to see black garlic in action, watch the Culinary Media Network video below (note: I didn’t speak with Scott Kim, founder of Black Garlic, Inc. until the day after this video was shot – so the comment about the garlic being exposed to light is incorrect.)
Is it an ancient Asian secret superfood? I don’t know and am trying to hold my judgement until an independant lab in the U.S. can verify and publish the results in English. But try aged, black garlic for its taste. I like using the black garlic is raw (like in a bruschetta), roasted whole cloves and then smeared on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil or sliced and fried like in this recipe.
Black Garlic with Scallops Recipe
Even if you don’t have black garlic, this is a simple recipe for scallops. Just substitute the black garlic with regular garlic. Just don’t expect any nooky tonight, unless you’re both having the dish!3 tablespoons butter, divided
16 extra-large dry-packed scallops, patted very dry (about 1 ½ pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves black garlic, thinly sliced (or use regular garlic)
1-2 teaspoons finely minced jalepeno pepper
¼ cup white wine
2 teaspoons good balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat a large frying pan with just 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and when the butter is bubbling, gently lay the scallops in the pan, not touching. Sear the scallops and cook for 4 minutes, turning once. They should have a lovely golden brown color on both sides. Transfer to a platter.
To the same hot pan on high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic slices and the jalepeno pepper and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine and the balsamic vinegar into the pan. Let simmer for 1 minute, season with salt and pepper and add the fresh parsley. Pour over scallops.