I use a lot of roasted garlic in my cooking. I love its mellow flavor, like a love-sweetened cousin to its sharper raw form. If I am on top of things, I will roast a big batch of garlic at once and toss a few heads in the freezer for squeezing into casseroles and pasta salads like this one). But when I'm not well-stocked, and when I find myself with a sudden need for some gooey garlic, I do it the fast way, the way that doesn't heat up my kitchen: In the microwave, with an optional flavor-boosting turbo charge in the oven. The word "roast" is in quotation marks because this isn't really roasting at all. It's steaming. You're using the microwave to steam the garlic right in its head, extra-quick. This will give you soft, smushable, cooked garlic that you can use in any recipe calling for roasted garlic. It won't be quite as mellow, but in a recipe it will be indistinguishable from the longer-cooked variety. And all in 6 to 8 minutes, as opposed to the 50 to 70 minutes it takes to roast garlic in the oven.
If you have an extra 10 to 15 minutes, and if you don't mind heating up your oven (or if it's already heated), you can roast the garlic at high heat to help it get some of that traditional roasted garlic flavor. But all the long work of softening the garlic will already be done — in the microwave, with less energy and heat.
What You Need
1 or more heads raw garlic
Salt and pepper
Microwave and oven-safe dish, such as a glass container
Microwave-safe lid, such as a ceramic saucer
1. Cut the top off each head of garlic, exposing the cloves within.
2. Place the garlic heads in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
3. Pour in about 1 1/2 tablespoons water for each head of garlic. (Option: You can also use white wine, for a winey-infused garlic.)
4. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid.
5. Microwave on 50% power in periods of 3 minutes.
6. Check the garlic after each 3-minute period, poking it with a fork to see how tender the garlic cloves are. (Be careful when removing the lid, as hot steam will billow out.)
7. Continue microwaving. After 6 minutes have elapsed, cook in increments of 1 minute each, until the garlic is very soft and can be pierced easily with a fork. Squeeze garlic out of the cloves and use in a recipe. Or turbo-boost your garlic by giving it a quick roast!
8. Heat the oven to 450°F. Wrap the steamed garlic head in a large piece of foil and put in the baking dish. (Pour out any remaining water first.)
9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the garlic has begun to color.
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(Images: Faith Durand)