Hello, Mr. Oscoey here. If you don’t love garlic, you should probably just move on to the next post. If you love garlic as much as my family does, or you have a vampire problem, read on.
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I don’t remember when I first ran across a recipe for a Lebanese garlic sauce called toum, but it has become a staple condiment in our refrigerator. The traditional Catalan aioli is a similar egg-less, mayonnaise-like sauce. There is some food science and a little bit of food magic which turns five simple ingredients into a fluffy, garlicy spread that is good on nearly everything (and also happens to be vegan).
Toum starts with garlic, water, and salt blitzed up in a food processor. This is where the food science comes in. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats has written about the science of garlic flavor but the tl;dr is that the compound that we associate with the harsh, hot flavor of garlic (alliinase) become deactivated at low pH (more acidic). This means that the longer you wait to add the lemon juice, the more pungent, garlicy flavor will come through. Want garlic without the punch? Add some lemon juice at the same time as the water, before everything is whizzed up.
Once you get a smooth paste, oil is slowly drizzled in, alternating with splashes of water and lemon juice. In addition to making sure you add oil slowly, it helps to hold your breath and say a prayer to the food gods because in rare occasions the entire mixture breaks, leaving you with an oily mess. It’s pretty hard to recover once broken unless you start adding egg yolks.
When all the oil, water, and lemon juice has been incorporated, let the food processor whip up the mixture until you get a mayonnaise-like consistency.
This makes about two and a half pints of sauce, and halving the recipe isn’t recommended unless you have a smaller food processor. It should last a month in the fridge, but ours never makes it beyond a couple weeks.
Toum (Garlic Sauce)
- 1/2 cup garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
- 3 cups canola oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Step 1 Add garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of the water, and salt to the food processor. If you want to minimize the pungent garlic flavor add 1/4 cup of lemon juice as well.
- Step 2 Turn on the food processor run until a smooth paste is formed. If you did not add the lemon juice in step one, wait a few minutes then add (the longer you wait, the more pungent the garlic flavor will be). Process until everything is mixed together.
- Step 3 Add oil in a slow, steady stream while the food processor is running.
- Step 4 After about a cup of oil, add a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of water.
- Step 5 Continue drizzling in oil, alternating with lemon juice and water.
- Step 6 Once all the oil, lemon juice, and water has been incorporated, run the food processor until the sauce has a mayonnaise-like consistency.