An emulsion of garlic and olive oil, aioli (ay-OH-lee) hails from the Provence region of France. Its name is a composite of the word for “garlic” (ail) and “oil” (oli). With the aid of a blender, making aioli is simple. Blend garlic cloves with egg yolks, salt and pepper, and continue to run the blender while gradually adding olive oil.
In Provence, garlic is practically an object of worship, and the French journalist Leon Daudet maintained that garlic achieved its culinary perfection in aioli. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Frédéric Mistral wrote, “Aioli epitomizes the heat, the power, and the joy of the Provencal sun, but it has another virtue—it drives away flies.”
One testament to the abundance of foods enhanced by aioli is the Provencal summer feast called “Le Grand Aioli” or “Aioli Monstre,” in which the pungent sauce serves as centerpiece. Platters of meat, fish, hard-cooked eggs and an enormous array of cooked and raw vegetables are heaped on long tables. Diners fill their plates and sauce it all with generous dollops of aioli. Use it as you would mayonnaise, albeit a bit more judiciously.
- As a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables
- As a spread for sandwiches
- In chicken or potato salad in place of mayonnaise
- As a sauce for fish
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.