This happens to be the first recipe in Ottolenghi’s new book NOPI, in the starter section. I have marked a similar recipe, eggplant with black garlic, in his last book Plenty More but has not made the dish because I was not able to get black garlic until now. Ottolenghi said he’d love black garlic to be more widely available. I can’t agree more.
Black garlic is supposed to be one of those superfoods for the health conscious type. Now it has become the star, if not staple, ingredient for chefs.
“We discovered black garlic around the same time that NOPI opened, and quickly became hooked. It has an addictive mellowness and depth of fermented flavor: part balsamic vinegar gummy candy, part licorice allsort.”
Black garlic is basically fermented white garlic. But black garlic owes its characteristic flavor not to fermentation, but enzymatic breakdown and the good old fashioned Maillard reaction. Processed at around 140°F for a month to six weeks, it essentially gets a low and slow roast that converts sugar and turns the cloves black.
First time I tasted black garlic, it was cooked very simply with sauteed asparagus, in its unprocessed form. I was hooked at first bite. You won’t find any uneaten black garlic on anyone’s plate. It was that good and surely addictive. It has a sweet, savory, funky and lively flavor all its own.
There are several recipes of eggplant on this blog. What’s different here is the high-temperature roasting and, of course, the extraordinary black garlic dressing. This recipe calls for eggplant wedges to be roasted at 425°F until golden brown, about 40 minutes. The flavor is further enhanced by mixing roasted eggplant in a black garlic dressing for at least an hour. The end result is some deeply flavored eggplant that very few could identify or distinguish the taste other than: it’s remarkable. There is some unfamiliar umami flavor. You may think it’s soy sauce, anchovy, truffle or molasses. But it’s none other than a few cloves of black garlic in a simple dressing.