Like many people who are passionate about food, Alice Waters is one of my culinary heroes; for her pioneering local, organic, and sustainable food sources in the U.S., as the chef behind the renowned Chez Panisse, and especially on account of her work in developing The Edible Schoolyard Project.
On the project, she says: “We’re trying to bring children into a new relationship with food where they have an opportunity to work in a garden. They know what it is to plant the seeds and pick the weeds and they’re learning about what it takes to cook the food. … We’ve been separated from this experience through a kind of fast-food indoctrination that’s been going on for the last 50 years. So we need to really come back to our senses and really understand, like most every other country in the world, that food is something precious.” – via NPR
I am into every single thing about that.
I am also very into all of Waters’ books. I reach for one of them every time I am stumped on a basic idea or need an easy but elegant recipe. While Le Grand Aioli is a classic Provencal concept, I first learned about it while flipping through The Art of Simple Food, which is the connection here.
Aioli at its core is eggs, olive oil, and garlic whisked into a homemade mayonnaise. For the record, it’s nothing like the standard mayonnaise we buy in a jar. Aioli is smooth and creamy (not gloppy!) and makes an excellent dip for vegetables and poached seafood. I attempted infusing this one with a bit of beet flavor, but quickly realized that because aioli is meant to be somewhat tangy, the beet was just too earthy. It was another good reminder, that simple is always best.
- For the Aioli:
- 2 small garlic cloves
- Salt (about ½ teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks (from large eggs)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any other neutral oil that you prefer)
- For the Capers:
- 2-3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
- 1 cup olive oil
- To Serve:
- Assorted vegetables (Here I used steamed baby yukon gold and fingerling potatoes, steamed broccoli, blanched green beans, roasted carrots, radishes, and snap peas.)
- To make the aioli: Mince the garlic, and using the back of a knife or a mortar and pestle, combine it with a generous pinch of salt and mash the two together to form a paste. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and the egg yolks. Combine the oils in a separate vessel, and very slowly begin streaming the oil mixture into the eggs, whisking as you go. Continue streaming and whisking until the mixture is emulsified, pale in color, and has a creamy texture. Gently whisk in the garlic paste.
- To make the capers: Line a plate with paper towels. Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat (If you have a thermometer, the oil should reach approximately 375 degrees.). Carefully drip the capers into the hot oil. Fry for roughly 30 seconds, until crisp. Remove the capers using a slotted spoon and drop them onto the paper-towel lined plate.