Aioli is said to have originated in the Provence region of Southern France. It's a traditional sauce composed of garlic, olive oil and egg. Yet there are many variations. Catalonia, in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, makes a version that uses olive oil and salt, pounded in a mortar until smooth, but minus the egg. The call it allioli. In Malta, they add crushed tomato to the mix. In other variations, mustard may be added, or even pears. Most people likened aioli to mayonnaise, because of its smooth, creamy texture. But it's nothing like mayo, it's distinctively garlicky.

Some of us may have experienced aioli as a spread on sandwiches or as a side for fries. It's more versatile that that. You can drizzle it on salads, or as a dipping sauce for seafood, meat and vegetables. It's good on cold roasts, and perfect as a tasty addition when a teaspoon or two is added to fish soups. You can toss some spaghetti or linguine with aioli sauce and top with Parmesan cheese for a rich pasta dish.

Aioli is a popular summer dish when fresh vegetables and juicy garlic are all over the place. That being said, as a creamy condiment it's good any time of the year. And it is quite easy to make at home. You can bypass the traditional mortar and pestle by using a bender or food processor. Saves a lot of time and mess. The only caveat is the question of using a raw egg. If you are concerned about this, then an egg substitute can be used in place of the raw egg.


Note: all ingredients must be at room temperature
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4  teaspoon salt, or more to taste (preferably sea salt)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Place garlic and salt in a blender or food processor, and pulse for about 2-3 seconds.
2. Add lemon juice and egg. Pulse the mixture in intervals until it well combined. Do not blend the mixture more than necessary.
3. Turn on the food processor again, and slowly add the oil, a few drops at a time. After about 1/3 of the oil has been added, add remaining oil in a slow steady stream. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little water and blend in into the mixture until desired consistency.
4. Season with pepper and serve.
    Yield: approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Note: picture courtesy of Anne Cusack/LAT  
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