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Are You There God? It's Me, Dana.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Are you there God? It's me, Dana. Listen, I know I really let you down when I got kicked out of Hebrew School for putting that tack on the Rabbi's chair. And I'm sure you were disappointed that I never became a Bat Mitzvah. I'd also bet you weren't so thrilled when I denounced all formal religion and became a pagan and haven't really dated a Jewish man since high school. Yeah, I'm sure those were all big bummers for you.

And then there's that joke I keep telling over and over. You know the one.

Q: What's the ultimate Jewish dilemma?

A: Free ham.

I mean, come on, God, it gets 'em every time! How can I not tell it? Politically incorrect jokes are my thing! Hey, I gotta be me, right, God?

And I know - I do eat an awful lot of pork. But I'm buying sustainably raised pork - does that count?

God, I've got to come clean about something. You know that regardless of my faults, I am a very proud cultural Jew, right? I keep The Joys of Yiddishon my nightstand, I've seen Jackie Mason live on stage and no one loves the great Jewish foodstuffs more than me; the salami, the herring, the corned beef and pastrami, the chopped liver, the kishke, the smoked fish, mandel bread and bagels with a shmear? I'm completely devoted to it all.

And I'm also proud to say I've never polluted any of my food with even a dab of mayonnaise save for some tuna salad on occasion. I know there's no law against it but no upstanding Jew would have a big old jar of Hellmann's or Miracle Whip in their fridge. No way! I know that!

But God, here's my confession; I just made mayonnaise from scratch for the first time this week because I really wanted a BLT (I know, again with the pork) and it was amazing! I mean a REAL revelation. Truly life changing! I'm afraid there's no going back now. Is there any way you can forgive me?

Making REAL Mayonnaise

OK, now that I'm back from the Catskills, let's have a chat about mayonnaise. I actually did make it myself this week for the first time - it was garlic aioli to accompany my BLT. It was life-changing.

Mayonnaise is simply oil suspended in a mixture of egg, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.

Aioli (pronounced ay-OH-lee) is a garlic mayonnaise, same ingredients as above sans mustard but often with herbs and lots of garlic pulsed in. It often accompanies grilled fish, meats, vegetables and is great on a sandwich.

Rouille (pronounced roo-EEE) is a spicy red mayonnaise with saffron, garlic and cayenne and typically used in fish stews such as bouillabaisse. In fact, one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark, just published this story about making mayonnaise - particularly Rouille - and you should definitely check it out. Her method is old school style, with a mortar and pestle, which I'm going to gather the courage to try next time.

Mine was made with a food processor. I've heard horror stories from friends about making it - that if you don't drizzle the oil into the egg very slowly and whip it just so, it will separate and you'll have to start over. I had no such problem. At first I didn't think it was getting thick, it looked too thin, but just as I was almost out of oil, it magically firmed up right before my very eyes. It was perfect.

I looked for the easiest recipe I could find and surprisingly it was from Emeril at the Food Network. I advocate using a good olive oil and farm fresh eggs from your farmers' market - I believe it will make all the difference.

A lovely way to use garlic aioli for guests, especially right now, would be as a dip with a platter of blanched and raw seasonal vegetables like green beans, cauliflower, radishes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, fingerlings and some seafood like cold, steamed shrimp and crab claws. Add some hard-boiled eggs, a loaf of bread and get the white wine flowing. That sounds beautiful to me.

This recipe would also be great on any sandwich and it'll make your canned tuna sing to high heaven. Perfect, now we're right back where we started....

Garlic Aioli


3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large egg
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Combine the garlic, egg, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and puree. Add the oil in a slow stream and continue to process until the mixture has formed a thick emulsion.

If you'd like your aioli less full court press and more mildly flirtatious, use one less clove of garlic.

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