Fats can be part of a healthy diet

It turns out that eating fats – especially the kind found in fish and in things like olives, nuts and avocados – is essential if you want to be healthy. Phew. Low fat diets make me feel awful – simultaneously hungry and unable to think straight. Apparently fat is brain-food.

That said, not all fat is created equal. French fries are never going to make the top ten list of fatty foods for health. On the other hand, mayonnaisey kinds of condiments, homemade from great ingredients, are actually good for you – in small amounts.

Roasted Garlic Aioli is delicious with fish of all kinds; try using it in your next lobster salad instead of regular mayonnaise, or stir some into the cooking liquid from steamed mussels for dunking crusty bread. It can also be used just like mayo in sandwiches, or as a dip for cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and other raw vegetables.

Too, Roasted Garlic Aioli makes a good starting place for other recipes. Stir a spoonful of it into your usual vinaigrette recipe, or blitz it with an avocado and some herbs for a lovely Green Goddess Dressing. I love Green Goddess on fresh salad greens with hard boiled eggs and chopped bacon. If you happen to have nasturtium blossoms in your garden, pick a few and scatter the spicy petals over the greens. They are as pretty as they are delicious.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

(Makes about 1½ cups)

1½ to 2 cups peeled garlic cloves, root ends trimmed off (about 4 heads of garlic)

1¼ cups olive oil (approximately)

a sprig of rosemary

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 egg yolk (see note 1 below)

¼ teaspoon cayenne or a dash of tabasco

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons cider or sherry wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the garlic, the oil, the rosemary and thyme in an oven-proof pot. Cook over a medium flame until the oil produces small bubbles, then put the pot into the oven. Let it bake for about 20 minutes, until the garlic has become very soft. Remove from oven and let the garlic, oil and herbs cool.

Strain the garlic from the oil, reserving the oil; discard the herbs. Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor along with the egg yolk, the cayenne or tabasco, the mustard, the salt and pepper, the lemon juice and the vinegar. Pulse until the mixture becomes smooth.

With the blade running, drizzle about 1 cup of the reserved oil into the garlic a little bit at a time. Go slow, because if you add the oil too quickly, the mixture will break (in which case, see note 2 below about fixing broken aioli). The mixture should become thick and glossy, like mayonnaise.

When thickened, taste the mixture and balance with more acid, salt, etc. as desired. This will keep refrigerated for four or five days.

Note 1: This recipe contains a raw egg yolk. Anyone who has a compromised immune system or who is very young or very old may want to avoid recipes containing raw eggs.

Note 2: If you add the oil too quickly, the aioli will break and look lumpy and greasy rather than thick, smooth and shiny. If that happens, place an egg yolk in a medium bowl and whisk it up a little. Then drizzle in the broken aioli, whisking well as you do so. This will bring the aioli back together and make it thicken up.

Extra Garlicky Green Goddess Dressing

(about 1½ cups)

½ cup Garlic Aioli

1 ripe avocado, cut in half, pitted and scooped out of its skin

5 anchovies, rinsed and chopped

the juice of 1 lemon

1 clove garlic, grated or minced

1 small bunch chives, chopped

the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh basil, chopped

salt to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Taste, then balance the acid or salt if desired. This may be thinned out with water or buttermilk if desired to a pourable consistency, or it may be used as is. This will keep four or five days in the refrigerator.

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