Elephant garlic is actually closely related to the leek and thought by some to be its wild ancestor. The bulbs are very large and can weigh more than a pound. They have a flavor that is milder than that of regular garlic and develop a rich sweetness when roasted.
For the basil purée:
Advance preparation: As with many of our soups, the flavors become better and more complex if the soup is made several days ahead of time and given a day of rest in the refrigerator.
Variations: You can substitute regular hard neck garlic for the elephant garlic, but the final soup will have a slightly sharper and more pungent flavor. This soup can be served hot or cold. Cream can be added, but we feel this puréed soup already has a creamlike consistency and richness without added fat. The eggplant and basil add an herbal smokiness that balances the sweetness and creaminess of the garlic.
Beverage pairing: The rich roasted sweetness and creaminess of the roasted garlic requires a wine with similar characteristics and a kiss of oak. Recommended: 2000 Adea Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon; or 2000 White Rock Organic Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California.
A light- to medium-bodied white, such as an Arneis from Piemonte with its notes of pear, almonds, and delicate herbs, would complement the sweet and floral qualities of the basil, as well as the more savory character of the grilled eggplant. We recommend the 2005 Marco Porello Arneis.