Friday, April 29, 2011

Roasted garlic aioli

The third step in the order of the Passover seder is to eat karpas, which is most often parsley or celery dipped in salt water.  The reasons for this are rather obscure, but are often linked to Passover as a spring holiday.  You say the blessing over vegetables ("fruits of the earth") and then dip and eat.  In our family, we would have boiled potatoes, since that was as close as my grandfather would get to a green vegetable, and since the blessing is the same as that on parsley.  However, there is nothing to say that the karpas has to be so meager, and really any vegetables go.  Supposedly, Persian Jews serve a platter of herbs, which is the traditional opening of a Persian mean in any case.  The Cairo Geniza, one of the great documentary sources for medieval social history, contains evidence that karpas was something of a cocktail party at the beginning of the seder.  At our seder, we have gotten progressively more carried away with this over the years.  It can pacify those for whom the fifth question ("when do we eat?") is the most important one,  allowing the rest to enjoy the seder.  It fortifies everyone until dinner and keeps them happy. This year we had steamed artichokes, boiled new potatoes, radishes, carrots, fennel, and herb platters (coriander, watercress, tarragon, dill, parsley, and scallions), along with a variety of dips:  olive oil, beet caviar, guacamole, and this roasted garlic aioli.
Readers of this blog will know that my mother is seriously garlic averse, and aioli presents a real challenge when she is in the house.  However, although it is very sharp, aromatic (and delicious) made with raw garlic, it mellows out considerably ir you roast it first. The taste is still garlicy and rich enough to satisfy garlic lovers.  I actually roast it in the microwave which is fast and easy.  While I am sure that my mother would have been personally offended by the smell if we served a conventional aioli, she did not even remark on the roasted garlic version.  She may even have eaten some. Here is how I do it:

Roasted Garlic Aioli

Ingredients:
  • 2 head garlic
  • 1/4 cup flavorful liquid
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
Method
  1. The garlic is most easily roasted in a microwave.  Remove the paper outside of two heads of garlic, but leave whole.  Cut of a little of the tops to expose the insides of the cloves.  Put them in a measuring cup or microwave-safe dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, pour on 1/4 cup liquid (I used water with 1/2 teaspoon of Osem PArve Pesach vegetable broth, but you can use what you want.  Cover and zap for about 3 minutes or until garlic is tender. Squeeze the garlic out of the peels -- it will plop right out, and proceed as follows depending on whether you make it by hand or in a mini food processor. (The quantities aren't large enough to use a regular blender or food processor.)
  2. To make it in a mini-processor: Put the peeled garlic in the processor with one egg yolk and a pinch of salt, and whir until chopped and combined.  With the motor running, drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil -- as much as it will take before breaking. Remove and mix in the lemon juice.
  3. To make it by hand:  Smash the peeled garlic with some coarse salt with the side of a chef's knife or cleaver.  Using the blade and the side of the knife, work into a puree.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in an egg yolk.  Slowly drizzle in up to 3/4 cup of olive oil  It will be easier to see that the sauce is not breaking up if you are doing this by hand.  Stir in lemon juice.
  4. The quantity given here makes just under a cup, and as one of many dips it was enough for 14.  By itself, I would say it serves 4-6, depending on how you use it.  It is delicious with all kinds of veggies, especially cold or room temperature steamed ones.  It would also go well as a side sauce with boiled or roast chicken, or with fish.  You can also spread it on fish fillets before baking quickly in a hot oven. 

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