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December 14, 2015 at 12:34 PM | categories: food, recipes | View Comments

Toum is traditional with middle eastern food, especially chicken. But it's also great on pizza or pasta, or as a dip for vegetables. Or use it to flavor rice dishes. Heck, try it with cardboard!

I first had toum (ثوم) at zankou chicken, where they call it "garlic sauce". Not knowing the name made it tricky to find a recipe, but I persevered. Here's what I've settled on:

  • 3 heads of garlic, peeled (about 36-42 cloves)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (soybean works well)

Peel the garlic and combine it with the salt and lemon juice in a blender. Work it into a fine paste. Add the oil a little at a time, building up a white, creamy emulsion. Use a little less lemon juice for a thicker texture, like whipped butter. Use more lemon juice if, like John Cleese, you like it runny.

Refrigerate for an hour or two before using, so the lemon juice can work on the garlic. Makes about a pint of garlicky goodness. Keep it refrigerated in a sealed container. Keeping toum in a condiment squeeze tube can be a lot of fun: apply garlic anywhere, anytime, with pinpoint precision.

You may be tempted to try olive oil instead of soybean. Don't bother: it doesn't emulsify very well. I think this is because of the chemistry of the fatty acids involved, but I don't even play a chemist on TV. Avoid canola oil too, because it makes the toum taste funny.

Emulsions have a reputation for being finicky, but this one seems pretty reliable for me. Just watch out for hot days or overworking the blender. Heat breaks down emulsions pretty easily. So does freezing. If you cook with toum, the heat will break down the emulsion. Sure, it'll break down into garlic and oil, and you might say you haven't lost anything. But why did you bother getting out the blender and making toum, if all you wanted was garlic and oil?

Some toum recipes call for extra filler: potato or breadcrumbs, etc. Feel free to try that. You can also try mixing in herbs or spices. Or just sprinkle whatever you feel like on top of your plateful of yum.

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Nam Phrik Pao

August 01, 2010 at 05:20 PM | categories: food, recipes | View Comments

This Thai roasted chile-tamarind curry paste is used in dishes such as tom yum and cashew chicken. Mixed with equal parts lime juice or lemon juice, it makes an excellent salad dressing. However, this recipe involves lots of hot oil. Be very careful when making this curry paste. This is your final warning.
  • 1/2-cu dried shrimp
  • 2-cu vegetable oil
  • 1/2-cu garlic, sliced (1-2 heads)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 12 chiles japones, or tien-tsin, or thai long chiles
  • 3-T tamarind concentrate
  • 3-T palm sugar
  • 3-T Thai fish sauce
Rehydrate the shrimp in a small bowl, then drain and set aside. Prepare the garlic and green onions, then heat the oil in a wok. Dip a wooden spoon to test the oil: when you see tiny bubbles coming from the wooden spoon, the oil is ready.

First, fry the garlic for 30-90 seconds. Wait for it to turn golden, but do not let it burn. You can skim the garlic out of the oil, or strain the oil into a glass container for the next step. Either way, set the garlic aside in a bowl.

Next, fry the green onions until they begin to caramelize, 2-3 minutes. Skim or strain them out and add to the bowl containing the garlic. Fry the chiles for about 30 seconds, and add them to the bowl. Then fry the shrimp for about 1 minute and add them to the bowl.

Using a food processor, combine the fried ingredients, the tamarind and 3-5 T of the frying oil and blend into a smooth paste. Move this paste to a saucepan, add the sugar and fish sauce, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Store the paste in a clean glass jar with a good lid. Refrigerated, it will keep for some time. This version of the recipe makes about 6-oz of curry paste.
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Juana's Salsa

October 03, 2009 at 11:35 AM | categories: recipes | View Comments

This is a classic tomatillo salsa. Don't be afraid to add a little water: if you skip that, it can set up like cement.
  • 10 dried japanese chiles
  • 15 tomatillos
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Husk and rinse tomatillos, and simmer in a medium saucepan filled with water. Toast the chiles in a dry skillet until they become aromatic, tossing occasionally. Rinse the chiles and put them in a blender with the garlic and salt, adding just enough water to cover. Puree, then add the tomatillos and blend again, adding more water if the salsa is too thick.

Chill and serve. It's good with chips, or tamales, or tacos, or a spoon.

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