In my world, garlic is a most wonderful ingredient to have around.

When baked at a moderate temperature for a minimal amount of time, garlic becomes relatively tame and achieves a mild, almost buttery texture and flavor. It's wonderful as a spread on French bread with butter, or as an ingredient in dishes ranging from mashed potatoes to stir-frys and vegetable sautes.

I’ve worked out some variations on the roasted garlic theme that can be broken into three categories: roasting whole heads, roasting halved heads, or roasting individual cloves.

Each treatment produces considerably different results. When the head is roasted intact, the cloves have the mildest disposition. If you halve the head by cutting it at its plumpest circumference, plop the cut sides down onto a puddle of olive oil and roast, the result will be a fairly sweet-natured product.

The third approach, roasting individual peeled cloves of garlic, is an entirely different animal. Because each individual clove is exposed to the oven environment and responds by producing a golden, crusty glow, the end result is a richer, more intense eating and cooking experience.

I began with a 3-pound bag of Christopher Ranch peeled garlic cloves. The Gilroy, California-based grower is one of the nation’s largest garlic producers, and I am a fan of their consistently good-quality garlic.

I’m usually able to work my way through the cloves in a reasonable amount of time. But this week, the “use by” date was looming and I had barely made a dent. Not wanting to waste a single clove, I decided that roasting and freezing the whole batch was the perfect solution.

Once roasted, I broke out two cups worth to concoct a zesty puree that freezes very well and is the basis for many of my favorite recipes, including salad dressings, mashed potatoes, party spreads and pasta sauces. Because we are heading into the holiday cooking season, having this puree on hand will be greatly appreciated. The rest were tumbled into a freezer bag that I sealed and laid flat on a baking sheet in the freezer so the cloves would freeze without clinging to each other. Once each clove was individually frozen, the bag was stored upright.

 

Roasted Garlic Cloves

Makes about 1 quart of roasted garlic cloves

3-pound bag (about 1 quart) peeled garlic cloves

About 3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the garlic cloves in a bowl. Add the olive oil and toss to evenly coat all of the cloves. Spread the cloves on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roast in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cloves are soft and tender, stirring with a spatula at several intervals throughout the process. Some cloves will get very dark, and that’s OK.

Remove from oven and let cool. Cloves can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or placed in freezer bags and frozen for up to several months. When freezing, it’s ideal to arrange the bags of cloves on a baking sheet so they can freeze in a single layer. Otherwise, the cloves stick together and cannot be removed individually as needed.

 

Roasted Garlic Puree

Makes about 1 cup.

This is an amazing mixture to have on hand for a wide range of culinary twists. It stands alone as a garlicky spread on crostini or as an additive for anything from cheese bread to mashed potatoes, pasta and risotto.

1 cup roasted garlic cloves (see basic recipe above)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon tempura sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

THE ZESTY APPROACH: Place the garlic cloves, olive oil, tempura sauce (or soy sauce), Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard in a blender or food processor and process until desired consistency is reached (from slightly chunky to relatively smooth). Scrape the contents into a small container, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Alternately, place in freezer bag, press to a thin patty-sized thickness, seal and freeze for up to several months; break off desired amount as needed.

BASIC APPROACH: For a simple, less zesty approach, simply puree the garlic cloves with the olive oil in a blender or food processor. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

 

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Makes about 1-1/8 cups vinaigrette

2 tablespoons roasted garlic puree (zesty approach, see recipe above)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together the garlic puree, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt. Whisk in the olive oil.

 

Simple Roasted Garlic Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta

Makes about 2½ cups sauce, enough for 4 servings.

If you have a cache of roasted garlic cloves hanging out in your freezer, this sauce is a snap to pull together.

½ cup roasted garlic cloves (about 20 large cloves)

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups heavy cream (see note)

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

Angel Hair pasta (enough for 4 servings )

Fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, combine the roasted garlic cloves and the wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced by about half, which will take about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low or low, add the cream, salt and pepper, and continue to simmer gently for about 15 more minutes to thicken. Cool slightly, then transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree. Scrape the sauce back into the pot and set aside over low heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain well.

Serve by tossing the pasta with the sauce, then adding Parmesan cheese to taste, and tossing again. Pass around additional Parmesan cheese at the table.

Note: you can lighten the sauce by substituting 1 cup of chicken broth for the cream, and also by using half-and-half instead of heavy cream.

 

Mashed Yukon Golds with Roasted Garlic

Makes 6 servings

½ cup roasted garlic cloves

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup butter

¾ cup half-and-half

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (or not, or partially peeled)

2½ teaspoons salt, divided

Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a blender or workbowl of a food processor and process in short spurts to obtain a puree.

Place the roasted garlic puree and butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat so the butter can melt slowly and merge with the puree. Once melted, just adjust heat to low.

Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 2- to 3-inch pieces and place them in a large pot with enough water to cover. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt. Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, add the half-and-half to the butter and garlic mixture and bring it just to a boil. Turn off the heat and set the mixture aside.

When the potatoes are tender, drain well into a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot and mash with a potato masher. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and continue mashing to mix in the salt. Stir in most of the hot cream, butter and garlic puree and combine. The potatoes may seem too thin at this point, but they'll soon thicken. Add additional cream/butter mixture to reach desired consistency. Add additional salt, if desired.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.