All the Garlic

If garlic had a fan club, I’d be its number one fan. I go through Costco-sized supplies of garlic on the regular. My love for garlic reached new heights when I discovered a staple Lebanese condiment at one of the Detroit area’s many Middle Eastern restaurants. Say it with me: toum. The world literally means garlic, and for good reason; the recipe I made (thanks to a great YouTube video!) had three bulbs (about one cup peeled) of garlic. I never thought I’d successfully master this spread, and I’m so glad that I did. When I moved to Astoria, I flocked to the closest thing in Greek culture to toum, which is skordalia. Skordalia serves up some seriously strong garlic flavor, but through the vessel of mashed potatoes. With toum, you’re getting a dip that’s way more potent.

The entire process took roughly 30 minutes (including the peeling of each clove), and the cleanup was a cinch. Toum makes such a fantastic dip, but it’s also great to use as an oil in a pan for cooking fish, meat (so I hear), and vegetables. Be weary that there is A LOT of oil, and this recipe makes several cups. I consider a serving of toum to be about a tablespoon, and when I calculate my Weight Watchers PointsPlus, I clock it as about the same as mayonnaise.

Toum – Makes 4-5 Cups – 30 Minutes

  • Garlic – 3 bulbs, peeled
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used freshly cracked sea salt)
  • 2 cups Canola oil

To make toum, start by adding your salt and peeled garlic to your food processor. Pulse until the mixture is really fine, scraping down the sides as necessary. Once the mixture is nearly paste-like, make sure your processor is turned on, and start adding a slow and steady stream of oil, half a cup at a time. Alternate between oil and lemon juice (two teaspoons at a time) until all of your liquids have been incorporated. What you’ll notice is that after about a cup of oil, the mixture should thicken quite a bit, and you should literally be able to hear your food processor start to churn. It’s a beautiful sound, with a garlicky smell.

toum

A few important things:

  • You must make sure that your food processor is completely dry. Water will break the emulsion. Everything you use (short of the lemon juice, ha) needs to be dry.
  • When you add the oil and lemon juice, you need to do so slowly, in a thread-like stream. If you introduce the liquid too quickly, it’ll break the emulsion.
  • To peel the garlic without making a mess that’ll make you want to wash your hands (and risk introducing water), use your thumb and index finger to press down on the ends of the garlic. It’ll loosen the skin a bit, making it significantly easier and cleaner to peel.
  • Do not use pre-crushed garlic, or pre-peeled garlic. Just trust me, it makes a difference.
  • If you’re not serving a crowd and need to store the toum, make sure to let it cool and rest first. If you put it away immediately in an air-tight container, water droplets will eventually cause it to separate.
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New Tastes

I don’t do much after work. On Tuesdays, I go to the gym for a session with my trainer. On Wednesdays, we’ve started playing trivia at The Sandwich Bar — and we won our first go at it last week! On all other days, you’ll probably find me at Whole Foods.

Since Whole Foods opened up by my office a couple years ago, I over-frequent it. I’ve started buying groceries once per week, but I still find myself stopping by Whole Foods to stock up on the things I plow through — tomatoes, spinach, and berries.

On my way home from work on Friday, I popped in to buy the essentials – my fridge was barren – and happened upon a find that I can’t seem to get enough of: valbreso feta.

This isn’t at all like greek feta – not even in its texture. Valbreso feta is french and is super tangy – almost lemony in its brine – and incredibly creamy versus crumbly. It’s more like a goat cheese in texture than anything else. I’m a big fan of using goat-like cheese with lentils, and so I decided to make just that. I think in the past three days I’ve had lentils for almost every meal.

I’ve had a pantry full of lentils for a while – I once bought a giant bag of black (or beluga) lentils at Whole Foods, and it’s been sitting there, unopened ever since.

These little guys seem to cook a bit faster than their brown and green counterparts (one quarter cup lentils to one cup of water for about 15-17 minutes over medium heat).

Once the lentils were cooked through (tender, but not mushy), I transferred them to a pan that was heating up with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and finely minced garlic. I added baby spinach, chopped heirloom tomatoes, and a little lemon juice to the pan. The lemon juice adds great flavor, but also deglazes the pan.

Once the lentils were combined with the vegetables and nicely sautéed, I transferred them to a bowl and sprinkled some valbreso feta over the top.

The creaminess of the feta added a really nice rich flavor and smooth texture to the earthiness and bite of the lentils and the acidity of the tomatoes.

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The Namesake – Top Chef Season 7

I was not at all surprised tonight when Alex was kicked off after tonight’s elimination challenge. Now that he is gone, I feel that I can resume being impressed with Tiffany and Kelly.

I thought the way Tiffany chose to deconstruct the gyro was really smart and simple enough where she could really work the classic flavors more powerfully. I would also give $1 million Monopoly dollars to hear Eric Ripert say “gyro” again.

Innovation, cooking, and taste aside, I was most pleased with this episode’s guest judges. I love Wiley Dufresne and Eric Ripert. Molecular Gastronomy is meshes cooking together as an art, a game, and a science. Eric Ripert, on the other hand, is just plain old adorable, and has been a great judge in past seasons. He’s most known for seafood, so I’m not sure that I’ll ever taste his food, but he sure is aesthetically pleasing.

Final three prediction? Simple. Ed, Tiffany, and Kelly.