Food Trend Alert: Garlic Fades to Black

Image: Ed Suba Jr., McClatchy-Tribune

Image: Ed Suba Jr., McClatchy-Tribune

The Washington Post declared black garlic the next “it” ingredient.  The Chicago Sun-Times called it the next big culinary wonder, and it was one of the 10 not-so-obvious dining trends for 2010 identified in the Chicago Tribune.  The excitement over black garlic hit a fever pitch after popping up on “Iron Chef America” last year. Most recently, black garlic was the big buzz at the Winter Fancy Food Show, according the The Food Channel.

Indeed, 2010 may be the year of black garlic.

Though aged garlic has been around for centuries in Asia, it has only been catching on with American chefs since 2004 when Scott Kim of South Korea began experimenting with it. He wanted to market black garlic as a super food (who doesn’t want to get in on that trend?) This fermented, aged garlic is the very definition of the fifth taste, umami, and it turns out the heat-curing process creates a high concentration of antioxidants and beneficial compounds.

Kim founded Black Garlic in 2008 and the California-based company is currently the only producer and supplier in the U.S.  You can find black garlic in Whole Foods and other specialty markets or buy it online.  Have you tried it?

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Here’s a look at who’s cooking with black garlic:

  • Steamy Kitchen said she loves the taste:  “it’s sweet, mild, caramelly and reminds me of molasses.”  She made an amazing looking Black Garlic with Scallops.
  • White On Rice Couple created Black Garlic Noodles, which looks divine.  You’ll also find some incredible photos.
  • Passionate Foodie made a Panko-Crusted Tilapia with Black Garlic Sauce, along with toasted French bread with black garlic butter.
  • Gourmet Fury whipped up beautiful Black Garlic Shrimp Dumplings in Napa Cabbage.
  • Bruce Hill, executive chef and part owner of Bix restaurant in San Francisco is believed to be the first American restaurant to feature black garlic.  Other chefs followed and it soon found its way to Le Bernadin in New York, where you’ll find black garlic in a spiced monkfish dish that was highlighted on Bravo’s “Top Chef: New York.”
  • Charlie Trotter in Chicago calls black garlic one of his top five food finds.
  • Jeremy Fox, executive chef at Ubuntu in Napa, drizzles drops of pureed black garlic on his fingerling potato salad.
  • Jerome Bacle, chef at Courtright’s restaurant in Willow Springs, Illinois, uses it in a snail and oyster champagne stew with almond tarragon butter, as well as in a fricassee paired with pan-seared venison. “I use it most . . . as a garnish but the mild taste of it is excellent in stuffing, in a sauce or even in a salad,” Bacle said in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times. Bacle, like other chefs, says black garlic has sweet notes. He describes its flavor as mild with hints of garlic, dried black Mission figs and caramel.
  • Wilbert Jones, a Chicago-based cookbook author and food product developer who worked for Kraft Foods for a decade, is writing a Southern breakfast and brunch cookbook that will include black garlic in some of the recipes. “One of the recipes I was working on a couple years ago was a risotto, because that’s when truffles were so hot. But, they’re expensive,” Jones says. “For people who can’t afford the truffles, [black garlic] gives it the appearance of truffles with a nice taste.
  • Rick Tramonto of Chicago’s Tru uses black garlic in two ways: in a marinade for mackerel ceviche, and sliced thin as a garnish for seared scallops (where the garlic slivers resemble delicate shavings of black truffle).  Tramonto told Gourmet:  “I love its soft and chewy texture.”

Take a look for yourself…

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