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Our 53rd Year

Aioli – Sauce for the Body and the Soul

Aioli (derived from the Latin allium for garlic, plus oli for oil) is a popular sauce over vegetables or fish, many variations of which originated centuries ago in Southern France, Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean countries. Here’s the basic idea:

  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1 egg yolk, organic
  • pinch of sea salt (opt.)
  • 1 cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Peel the garlic cloves, remove the sprout and mince (or use a garlic press). Mash with the egg yolk, in a mortar until it is a finely ground paste. Add sea salt, if desired. Add oil a drop or so at a time, as you would for mayonnaise. Continue to pound and stir the mixture in the mortar. Use it as you would mayonnaise. (Editor’s Note: This is an old recipe, so a small food processor could be employed for those not into “pounding.”)

There are about as many variations of aioli as there are cooks over the centuries. Some of the additions include cayenne pepper, various types of mustard, fresh herbs (thyme, dill, basil, etc.), assorted spices (Hungarian sweet paprika, curry powder, etc.), fresh chopped shallots, white or black truffle oil (add less olive oil to the original mixture), chili sauce, even pears. A Greek recipe for Aioli calls for pounded walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, plus fresh bread crumbs sieved and soaked in milk, plus pounded garlic. Blend this with oil, lemon juice. Sorry we have no recommendations as to amounts of ingredients. Presumably the Greek cook makes up her recipe as she goes along.

*Among the peoples living around the Mediterranean coasts, the use of garlic dates back to the very beginning of cooking itself. But as Leon Daudet (1867-1942) observed, with the aioli it attained its peak of perfection,”the very highest degree of those truly civilized customs and habits that instill health with well-being.” So that we need feel no astonishment at learning that when the poet Mistral founded a Provencal newspaper (this was in 1891), he called it L’Aioli. The sauce had become a symbol. And he wrote of it with justice: “It concentrates all the warmth, the strength, the sun-loving gaiety of Provence in its essence, but it also has a particular virtue: it keeps flies away. Those who don’t like it, those whose stomachs rise at the thought of our oil, won’t come buzzing around us wasting our time. There’ll just be the family.” The poet adds, “The aioli goes slightly to the head, impregnates the body with its warmth, and bathes the soul with its enthusiasm…”

The Hundred Glories of French Cooking by Robert Courtine