Showing posts with label Appetizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Appetizer. Show all posts

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Meatballs in Marinara

Over the course of the last seven years, Italian style meatballs seem to have reinvented themselves. No longer is their presence reliant or co-dependent on a large platter of pasta. No longer are they satisfied with their second billing status. No longer are they relegated to the 'sides' section of a menu. No, meatballs have asserted their independence and taken center stage. Whether served as appetizers or as the main course, one can't help but wonder why it took so long for meatballs to finally take their rightful place on menus and our tables. Regardless of the plausibility of any one of the working theories aimed at trying to explain this long overdue meatball paradigm shift, meatball madness doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. 

These aren't your average bite-sized meatballs. No, they fall into the 'go big or go home' category. 

I have been looking for a new meatball recipe for awhile now. In the process, I discovered there are quite a few myths and mistakes surrounding them. Bon Appetit shared a number of them in an article published six years ago. From salt doesn't matter, to who needs fresh herbs, to eggs are the source of moisture, to mixing with a spoon, to one size fits all meatballs, to rolling them dry, to skipping the sear, I would venture to bet very few of us would agree they should all be universally dispelled. Particularly the 'to sear or not to sear' meatball making method. Spoiler Alert: These meatballs are first browned at high heat in the oven and then braised in marinara sauce.

If you don't yet have a favorite, beloved, to-die-for meatball recipe in your arsenal, then today is your lucky day. 

Honestly I was tempted to use a jarred tomato sauce when making these meatballs. You know, the semi-homemade, how is easy is that approach we have all found ourselves doing at one time or another. But this wasn't going to be one of those times. And the decision to stay on the completely homemade course allowed me to discover the deliciousness of this marinara sauce. Seriously, is there anything easier to make than a marinara? This one comes together in less than hour and delivers big, bold flavors. One the best things about a homemade marinara sauce is that it can be made early in the day or the day before. Enhanced flavor is an added benefit of giving it some rest time. 

Making meatballs is a messy business. But using your hands instead of a spoon or food processor helps to ensure you don't end up with an over mixed paste. So get ready to get your hands dirty! These meatballs are made with the trifecta of ground meats (beef, pork, and veal), fresh bread crumbs, whole milk ricotta, eggs, fresh herbs, spices, kosher salt, and pepper.

Using an ice cream scoop helps to create uniform size meatballs. Using a scoop 2 1/4" in diameter, this recipe makes 20-22 meatballs. Twenty of them fit perfectly in a lightly oiled 9"x13" pan (I threw the other two in the freezer.) In a preheated 425 degree (F) oven, the meatballs first bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Before adding the marinara sauce to the pan, it's critical you drain the liquified excess fat. Once drained, pour three cups of the marinara sauce over the meatballs and bake them for approximately one hour at a lowered 325 degree (F) temperature. You might think the meatballs would dry out with such a long baking time, but they don't. The marinara sauces serves as a braising liquid and keeps them moist. An added benefit to the long baking time further is an even deeper flavor to the marinara sauce. Notes: The meatballs can be formed early in day. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Remove from oven for approximately 30 minutes before baking.

There are a number of finishing options for these meatballs. The simplest one is sprinkling them with freshly chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Don't forget the garlic bread and/or garlic bread sticks.

To kick them up a notch, top the meatballs with thinly sliced pieces of fresh mozzarella, return to a hot oven (450 degrees F) for approximately 5 minutes to let the cheese melt. Then finish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped fresh herbs (parsley and/or basil). Whether you serve them just like this or turn them into meatball sliders, everyone will be swooning over them.

When plating the meatballs, serve with either a side of remaining warmed marinara sauce or set them atop a small pool marinara sauce. Have some garlic bread and/or garlic sticks within reach so everyone can mop up the marinara. Trust me when I say it would be akin to committing a sin to leave any of this mouthwatering marinara sauce on the plate.

Invite some of your family and friends over and make these Meatballs in Marinara. Soon! Open up a couple bottles of a great red wine and make some garlic bread/garlic breadsticks or slice up a dense Italian bread. You will be guaranteed a memorable, fun, 'they will be talking about this for days' evening. Unless, of course, your choice of wine is, well, how shall I put it.....lackluster. 

I will venture to guess these Meatballs in Marinara are destined to become your favorites. However, in case you ever get tired of making THESE meatballs, there are several other meatball recipes on the blog: Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries; Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt and Cucumbers; and Bucatini and Meatballs. Wishing you many happy meatball moments!

Meatballs in Marinara (inspired by Fine Cooking's Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe)
Makes 20-22 very large meatballs

Marinara Sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cans (26-28 ounce sized) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ground beef (80-85%)
1 pound ground pork
12 ounces ground veal
2 cups fresh coarse bread crumbs
1 cup whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons fennel
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper

1. Heat olive oil in heavy duty large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often until the onion is soft (approximately 6-10 minutes).
2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened (approximately 3-4 minutes).
3. Add the diced tomatoes and salt. 
4. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce has reduced by about a third (approximately 40-60 minutes).
5. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with additional salt.
6. Transfer sauce to a food processor and puree. Return sauce back to pan, cover, and keep warm.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F). Oil a 9"x13" baking pan with olive oil. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, ricotta, eggs, parsley, oregano, fennel seed, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper. Mix gently but thorough with your hands.
3. Using a large ice cream scoop, make 20-22 meatballs 2 1/4" in diameter. Roll the meatballs to make them round. Arrange snugly in the baking pan.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops of the meatballs have lightly browned. Remove from oven, remove and drain the excess fat.
5. Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees (F).
6. Pour 3 cups of the sauce over the meatballs. Return to oven and continue to bake for 60 minutes.
7. Choose a finishing option. Serve with additional Marinara Sauce and garlic bread sticks or on top of buttered/grilled small rolls to make Meatball Sliders.
8. Wrap any leftover meatballs and marinara sauce and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They reheat beautifully.

Finishing Options:
1. Sprinkle top of the meatballs with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
2. Place thin slices of fresh mozzarella over the meatballs, place in a 450 degree (F) oven and bake until cheese begins to melt (approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle top of the meatballs with chopped parsley and/or thinly sliced basil and freshly grated Parmigianno-Regianno Cheese.

Notes: (1) Make your breadcrumbs in a food processor. I like to use ciabatta rolls when making fresh, coarse breadcrumbs. If ciabatta is not available, use another dense bread. (2) The marinara sauce can be made earlier in the day or the day before. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. After removing three cups of the sauce to pour over the meatballs, reheat remaining sauce when ready to serve. (3) If you don't have time to make your own marinara, use your favorite jarred marinara sauce. But don't tell anyone I told you to do this. (4) I used BelGioioso's whole milk ricotta and fresh mozzarella.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

We celebrated the birthday of one of our friends this past weekend. This birthday gathering might best be described as an adult birthday party complete with a destination activity. Before we sat by the fire indulging ourselves in bottles of (my new favorite) Italian prosecco, some appetizers, a simple dinner, and of course, the birthday girl's favorite combination of flavors cake (peanut butter and chocolate), we spent two hours at the 'barre'. Depending on one's perspective, this was either two hours of 'pure' joy or two hours of being semi-permanently traumatized looking at yourself close-up in the mirror. But in all seriousness, doing any form of exercise with a group of friends, for however long or however challenging, is always so much more fun than doing it alone. There are an infinite number of reasons why we all love this collective friendship. Encouraging each another to be physically healthy and active is just one of them. Celebrating important life events together is another. I could go endlessly listing the mutual benefits everyone gets from this posse's friendship.

Being one of the Type A personalities in the group, I love when I get to host any of our gatherings here at my house. What I love even more is how generous everyone contributes, how comfortable everyone seems to feel when they are here as well as witnessing them experience a dish for the 'first' time. Whether it's a lox platter, a Dutch Baby, tomato jam, an Elderflower cordial, or these Rosemary Roasted Cashews, their reactions always make my heart happy.

I thought I had already shared my version of Ina Garten's Rosemary Roasted Cashews with you, but apparently I had only shared my variation of her Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts recipe. There are similarities and differences between the two so you need to have both of them. The Rosemary Roasted Cashews are made only with cashews, while the Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts recipe is made with cashews, walnuts, and walnuts. While most of the other ingredients between the two are similar, one uses maple syrup and one doesn't. This is the version that doesn't. 

This is a six ingredient appetizer. Depending on where you live or whether or not you have the uncanny ability to keep your herbs alive indoors during the winter months, fresh rosemary is available year round in most grocery stores. In spite of what you may read, dried rosemary isn't always a substitute for the fresh stuff. If there was ever a dish to prove that 'theory bordering on fact', it would be this one. In a pinch you probably could swap out the dark brown sugar for light brown sugar, but your Rosemary Roasted Cashews might suffer from a depth of sweetness. For optimal eating pleasure and presentation, splurge on whole cashews.

From start to finish, these Rosemary Roasted Cashews take about 20 minutes. They are one of those no fuss, simple appetizer that everyone will go nut for (please forgive the pun). In a preheated 375 degree (F) the cashews are roasted for approximately 10 minutes or until heated through.

The roasted cashews are stirred into the rosemary/chipotle chile/dark brown sugar/kosher salt/rosemary/melted butter mixture until they are coated. Making these Rosemary Roasted Cashews could not be easier. Once you taste them, you will think twice about serving 'naked' cashews. 

These Rosemary Roasted Cashews are highly addictive. It is almost impossible to eat only a few. Even for those who boast of having incredible will power. Recommended to be served warm, they are also sinfully delicious served at room temperature. The taste of the chipotle chile is detectable but subtle. They are definitely not like the 'hot' version I once made for a golf outing an extremely hot, humid, sunny day. When combined with the rosemary, brown sugar and kosher salt the cashews are transformed in a most savory, flavorful bite. They paired perfectly with prosecco, but these cashews are wine, champagne, cocktail, and beer friendly. In other words, serve them with your favorite beverages. When you make these Rosemary Roasted Cashews, your house just might become the one everyone wants to come to or come back to. 

Rosemary Roasted Cashews (slight adaptation to Ina Garten's Roasted Rosemary Cashews recipe)

1 1/4 pounds whole cashews
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile spice (or cayenne) Note: I use this one made by Spice Islands.
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).
2. Combine the rosemary, chipotle chile, brown sugar, kosher salt, and melted butter in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
3. Place cashews on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until they are warmed through.
4. Toss the warm cashews with the rosemary mixture until they are completely coated.
5. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.
6. If making ahead, allow to cool before transferring to a tightly sealed container. 

Notes: (1) In spite of the use of kosher salt in the coating, I use roasted and salted whole cashews instead of raw (unsalted) cashews as the rosemary coating doesn't adhere to the raw cashews. (2) I have made these Rosemary Roasted Cashews using both chipotle chile and cayenne. The ones made with the chipotle chile are my favorite. (3) For the most flavorful nuts, use fresh rosemary. Don't even think about using dried rosemary.

Sunrise views from the cottage. Little Compton, Rhode Island (2017)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa with Whipped Cream Cheese

In spite of all of the attention the turkey, the sides, and the desserts get on Thanksgiving Day, the unsung heroes of the day might just be the appetizers. Especially if the time between your expected arrival and when dinner is actually served can be as much as two or three hours. If you have ever starved yourself all morning in anticipation of not showing any restraint with how much food you put on your plate, you know waiting an hour in a house filled with intoxicating Thanksgiving aromas is a form of torture. And in spite of what myths or old wives tales you have been told, appetizers don't alway spoil your appetite. They actually keep you from acting as if you have never seen food before. In other words, appetizers enable you to demonstrate enviable social graces and the table manners every Emily Post-esq etiquette teacher in the world would be proud of.

In decades of either making or being invited to Thanksgiving dinners, I somehow managed to never come across Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa with Whipped Cream Cheese. I learned there was such a thing last week while I was getting my hair cut. Had I not asked my hair stylist what she was bringing to her family Thanksgiving dinner, who knows how long, or if ever for that matter, it be before I ever tasted the New England meets the Southwest Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa. The idea of this salsa was so intriguing, I began looking for recipes the moment I arrived home. I discovered I clearly have been living a salsa sheltered life, as there were literally hundreds of Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa recipes out there. After reviewing about a dozen of them (as exhaustive as a search as was needed), I realized I had enough information to decide how much heat and sweet I wanted my Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa to have. I also knew it wouldn't be one served slathered over a cream cheese log as I am a big believer in 'everyone should decide just how much cream cheese and just how much salsa they want' spread on their crackers. But there was another compelling reason. How many time have you arrived late to a gathering only to find that all of the good stuff put on top of the cream cheese had been scraped away? Even if it has only happened to you once, you remember wondering what you had missed out on.

For years I, along with Ina Garten, had not been a big fan of cilantro. Whether my palate is changing or not, I have finally seen the cilantro light. However, if you are already a big fan of this herb, you are going to love this Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa. But if you have been a cilantro hold-out like me, this salsa might be enough to convert you. 

With so many cranberry dishes vying for attention on Thanksgiving Day, why would any one consider adding one more? Because everyone needs at least one savory cranberry option to offset all of the sweet versions being served. But don't let me pigeon-hole this salsa into a 'make only on Thanksgiving Day' appetizer. No. It's one that should be made as often as possible while fresh cranberries are in season.

While perusing Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa recipes, every single one of them was made entirely in the food processor. Being concerned the cranberries would be over processed and the resulting salsa would be more mush than textured, I went with the 'pulse the cranberries in the food processor until coarsely chopped and dice/finely dice everything else route'. 

After the mixture macerated in the refrigerator overnight, I knew the extra chopping time was worth it. Sometimes a little more work makes all the difference in the world. 

Depending on how much heat you like, you will want to use either one or two jalapeños as well as decide whether or not to keep or scrape out the seeds. I used one large jalapeño and didn't throw away the seeds. As someone who isn't the biggest of fan of too spicy, the salsa turned out to have the right kind of spicy. In other words, consider keeping the seeds.

Many of the Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa recipes I looked at called for adding lemon juice. Some called for lime juice and then others gave the either/or option. My so-called logic for choosing lime juice over lemon juice was due in to large part to associating salsa with margaritas. Since the classic margarita is made with lime juice, then it seemed only natural this salsa would be made with lime juice rather than lemon juice. 

To optimize the salsa's flavor, it needs to be refrigerated for at least four hours or overnight. I patiently waited almost 24 hours before giving it the 'taste' test. 

As it turned out, the wait was definitely worth it. 

The combination of the cool, creamy cream cheese with the flavors of the sweet/spicy salsa is a match made in heaven appetizer. I will even go so far as to say it's a little on the addictive side. Seriously. Or could it be I am so late to the Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa party I wanted to make up for lost time? Well, yes I was most definitely late, but this happens to be one of those 'hard to eat in moderation' salsas.

When serving Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa just make certain your whipped cream cheese is creamy and spreadable. If you whip up your own cream cheese (from blocks of cream cheese allowed to soften slightly), wait until you are ready to serve to get our your mixer. Or buy the always creamy in the tub cream cheese. 

For turning me on to this Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa with Whipped Cream Cheese I am going to think long and hard about a worthy Christmas present for my hair stylist. Although how to you thank someone for telling you about a 'wow on the platter and even bigger wow on your palate' appetizer you never knew even existed? Maybe something will come to me while I nosh my way through numerous batches of salsa over the next several weeks.

Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa with Whipped Cream Cheese (inspired from multiple sources)

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1-2 Jalapeños (with seeds), finely diced (I used one large Jalapeño)
4 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 1/2 ounce bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed, finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 large or 2 small limes)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 ounces of cream cheese, whipped (or a 16 ounce tub of the creamy vs block cream cheese)
Assorted crackers and/or nacho chips

1. Place cranberries in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer cranberries to a medium sized bowl.
2. Mix in the jalapeños, onions, sugar, salt, and lime juice. Stir until blended.
3. Add in cilantro. Stir until combined.
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer mixture to tightly sealed jars and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. 
5. When ready to serve, place cranberry jalapeño salsa in a small bowl. Place whipped cream cheese in a separate bowl. 
6. Arrange bowls on a serving tray and surround with crackers. Serve immediately.

Notes: (1) To whip cream cheese, allow blocks of cream cheese to soften slightly. Whip with a hand mixer. Alternately buy already whipped cream cheese. (2) Some prefer to serve the Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa over a log of the cream cheese, however, depending on how long the appetizer sits out, the cream cheese will become saturated with the salsa liquid. (3) Many recipes for the Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa called for all of the ingredients to processed in the food processor. I think chopping the Jalapeños, green onions, and cilantro separately ensures the cranberries to do get finely chopped. (4) If you don't want the added heat from the seeds of the Jalapeños, scrape them out before finely dicing

Silos and farms in southern Wisconsin (November 2017)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Garlic Aoili with Crudités

 "You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist." Friedrich Nietzsche After experiencing a moment of culinary angst last week, those words, combined with taking a deep breath, and reframing the moment with a yoga inspired intention enabled me to get a grip on myself. So what caused me to have an irrational, temporary moment of emotional regression? Well, it all had to do with making aoili. I had taken it a bit too seriously. Not only was my reaction to a failed attempt a bit out of character (it's not the first time something didn't exactly go as planned), so was the way I had usually approached making a new recipe. Instead of doing a fair amount of research and triangulating multiple recipes/sources of information, I made a new recipe without doing either or both of these things. This is not to say we shouldn't allow ourselves to have those blind faith moments. Because we should. Just not all of the time. Or at least for me, not in making aoili. As it turned out, throwing out the unsalvageable olive oil and (farm fresh) eggs turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While I didn't go into full doctoral dissertation research mode, I took a step back and spent some time learning a a bit more about making aoili and mayonnaise. Without going too far down into the aoili rabbit hole, I learned fairly quickly was there are a fair number of variations in both ingredient proportions and technique. Discovering some respected chefs have shared multiple recipes for their take on a good quality aoili and/or mayonnaise was reassuring. It seemed on any given day, one's choice of aoili recipe might depend on prior success, personal preference, and/or allegiance to a particular culinary belief. In an odd sort of way, this was proof there was no one right aioli making way.

If I could, please indulge my need to share some of what I learned during this aoili and mayonnaise learning quest. Feel free to skip ahead. Using the highly regarded Larousse Gastronomique as a reference, a Bon Appetit article helped to explain some of similarities and differences between these two sauces. "Mayonnaise is a 'cold emulsified sauce consisting of yolks and oil blended together', while an aoili is an emulsified sauce that must contain garlic and olive oil." So technically, a mayonnaise could be considered an aoili, if it's made with garlic and oil, and an aoili could be considered a mayonnaise as long as it is made with a yolk. However, don't expect everyone to agree on this interchangeability viewpoint. 

How the oil is incorporated into the yolk mixture can be achieved in a variety of ways, some more foolproof than others. Food processors, immersion blenders, whisks, and a mortar/pestle are some of the tools used. Some recipes provide directions specify the use of only one of these tools, while others offer directions for multiple options. Owning an immersion blender, food processor, or a mortar/pestle will not prevent anyone from making it. A larger sized, balloon shaped whisk and strong arm muscles will work. However, success will in large part be due to the amount and rate the oil is added to the yolk mixture.

The inherent oppositional qualities of oil and water (two common mayonnaise/aoili ingredients) can make achieving a thick, velvety, smooth texture somewhat challenging (there are reasons for this, scientific ones actually!). The classic aoili/mayonnaise technique (as summarized by Kenji Lopez-Alt) begins with whisking the egg yolks, a bit of mustard, a small amount of water, and either lemon juice or vinegar. Once combined, the oil is ever so slowly trickled in while simultaneously being rapidly whisked. Adding the oil too quickly will prevent the emulsification necessary to create the rich, lush, creamy sauce some of us love. 

All of this was good information, but I wanted, or rather still needed, to know if there was a best or definitive egg yolk to oil ratio?  After looking at significant number aoili/mayonnaise recipes from some highly respected food sources, I discovered there was a fair degree of variability. Even in recipes claiming to be classic versions. The ratios ranged from one egg yolk to a half-cup of oil; to one egg yolk to 3/4 cup (or 12 Tablespoons) of oil; to one egg yolk to 10 ounces of oil; to one egg yolk to 1 1/2 cups of oil. Michael Ruhlman, the food science guru and author of the Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, cited the one egg yolk to 1 cup of oil as the perfect ratio while my favorite cooking goddess, Ina Garten, used a one (extra-large) egg yolk to 3/4 cup olive oil ratio. Discovering all of these different egg/oil ratios could have caused an aoili head spinning moment if I hadn't kept repeating the mantra 'in cooking as in life, there is no one right way to do anything'. There might be best ways, favorite ways, better ways, or for no good reason ways. On the remote chance was there only one right way, I doubt the egg yolk to oil ratio would qualify for entry into such an exclusive category.

Then there was the nagging question: Was there one best oil to use? Some recipes called for olive only; some for a combination of a neutral oil (vegetable, canola or grapeseed) and an olive oil; and still others called for the use of peanut oil. Olive oil appeared to be prevailing choice, but best appeared to be a matter of taste.  Adding another layer to the oil decision making process was learning the powerful blades of blenders and food processors could actually be responsible for creating a bitter-tasting sauce. It seems olive oil is actually made up of tiny fragments. If sheared apart from one another, they can go from being delicious tasting droplets to bitter-tasting fragments in the blink of an eye. 

As I was finally nearing the end of semi-exhaustive research endeavor I began to wonder if I should put aoili in the category of things I shouldn't make. Wouldn't mixing some finely chopped garlic into some already pre-made mayonnaise might be easier? Couldn't I use a semi-homemade or homemade version of aoili to serve with the gorgeous vegetables I had picked up at the Farmer's Market? Would anyone really care? Maybe, maybe not. Could anyone tell the difference between the two? I am pretty certain they would. But would they prefer one over the other? Well, I'd like to think given the choice between eating a semi-homemade aoili and homemade aoili, the flavor and texture of the homemade one would be the hands down favorite. On the chance this assumption is incorrect, I felt a comelling need to experience the triumph of, with or without any adulation, making a really, really good garlic aoili. The farm raised, freshly picked vegetables deserved to be served with nothing less. 

As I embarked on the second, non-melt down garlic aoili making attempt I felt certain there would be a successful outcome. But I had several decisions to make first. Beginning with which tool to use. The food processor method didn't work the first time (for a number of reasons I now realize), I don't have an immersion blender, and I may not have the patience required for using a mortar/pestle. Which left me with one choice: the whisk. Next I to decide which oil or oils to use. Being partial to the flavor of olive oil helped make that decision. And lastly was settling on an egg yolk to olive oil ratio. I had done enough reading to realize any number of the yolk to oil ratios would work as long as I was patient with adding the oil. After a bit of deliberation, I decided on Plan A (aka the 1 egg yolk to 1/2 cup oil ratio). And if, by some chance the aoili was too thick and/or it didn't meet the taste test, I would go to Plan B and add more oil. Either way I didn't think I could go wrong this time, nor lose my sanity.

When selecting vegetables for a crudité platter, there are no hard and fast rules. Choose what you like, what you think everyone would enjoy. All steamed, all raw, or grilled vegetables or a combination of any of these would work. Choose a wide assortment of or several different kinds of vegetables. Create a platter with vegetables all having the same color or make it colorful. Add hard boiled eggs, olives, and/or bread. Or not. Garnish with fresh herbs and/or flowers. Or not. Make it as an appetizer or transform it into a meal. The Garlic Aoili with Crudités  possibilities are endlless.

But definitely have a bowl of homemade garlic aoili on the platter. Like the Plan A recipe below. The one having a rich, creamy, and almost perfect consistency. Not only did it exceed all of my expectations, it restored my culinary confidence. Let the happy dancing commence!

Key to its' success the second time around was adding the olive oil ever so slowly. Starting with only drips of olive oil, gradually increased to half-teaspoonfuls while rigorously whisking well during and after each addition contributed to its' emulsification.  If I could have figured out how to add the the oil in a slow, think steady stream at a certain point, I would have. But I only had two hands. You might think the aioli making process is little time consuming. Maybe slightly. But surprisingly it didn't feel that way. 

While I am more informed about aoili/mayonnaise than I was only a week ago, I am by no means an expert. It's quite possible the next time I make an aoili, I rush the process and fail to experience aoili nirvana. It is also not outside the realm of possibility I will try and fall deeply, madly in love with another aoili recipe I was somehow lulled into making. For the moment, I am over the moon smitten with this version. 

As far as most of my blog posts go, this one may have rambled on a bit more than usual. So let me thank you for taking the time to hang in there. The day cooking and/or baking stops becoming or feeling like an adventure is the day I should probably put away my measuring cups and spoons, the large assortment of kitchen gadgets, and collection of copper pots. The hundreds of cookbooks and stacks of magazines would also have to find a new home. And most importantly, the day I stop learning from and appreciating the culinary perspectives of others is the day I should....well, let's just say I hope that day never comes because I am not certain what the best thing to do would be. Here's hoping we all continue to be kind and encouraging toward one another while experiencing the trials, tribulations, risks, and rewards awaiting us all in the gray world of cooking, baking, and making a homemade garlic aoili.

Garlic Aoili with Crudités (inspired by Bon Appetit's Real Deal Aoili recipe)

2 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 -5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (Note: The more garlic, the more intense the flavor. I love garlic and used only 4 medium garlic cloves.)
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup good quality olive oil
Assortment of raw and/or steamed vegetables (e.g., cherry tomatoes, carrots, string beans, baby red potatoes, artichokes, radishes, sugar snap peans, asparagus, cucumber slices, kalamata olives, etc.)
Hard-boiled eggs
Grilled Bread

1. Whisk egg yolks, salt, garlic, lemon juice and dijon mustard in a medium sized bowl to combine. The mixture should be creamy.
2. Using a large balloon whisk, add olive oil in drops whisking to ensure the mixture remains emulsified after each addition. After using about a 1/4 cup of the oil, begin to add oil in slightly larger amounts (think half teaspoons) or a very, very thin stream, whisking during and well after each addition. Note: If oil is added too quickly the aoili will break down and the oil will separate.
3. Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated and the aoili is thick enough to hold its' shape when spooned. Season with additional salt if necessary.
4. Serve immediately or cover and chill. Can be made a day ahead. Will last for at least a week in the refrigerator. 
5. Choose an assortment of steamed and/or raw vegetables; hard-boiled eggs; and/or grilled bread. Arrange on a platter. Serve with bowl of the garlic aoili. 

Notes: (1) Use a good quality olive oil and dijon mustard. It is not necessary to use extra-virgin olive oil, just a really good olive oil. In fact you can use a combination of olive oil and a neutral oil (like canola or vegetable oil. Maille is my favorite go-to dijon mustard. (2) The flavor of the garlic will intensify the longer the aoili chills in the refrigerator, so you might to use only 3-4 cloves of garlic the first time you make it. (3) This garlic aoili would also be a great condiment for grilled meats, burgers, chicken and/or seafood. It would even elevate any number of sandwiches. And oh, french fries dipped in this garlic aoili would be insane! (4) I didn't provide directions using immersion blender or any other tool as I have only made it using a whisk. If you have had aioli success with any other tool, feel free to use it. 

Farmer's Market bounty. (July, 2017)