An aioli feast has long been a part of the joyful, Mediterranean food culture of Provence in southern France. An array of seasonal vegetables, plainly prepared, are served to friends and family with a huge bowl of aioli – a pungent garlic mayonnaise – to dip everything in. Often served on Friday, historically a meatless day in Provence, this meal is known as aioli monstre, or ‘huge aioli’. It is also traditional on Christmas Eve, another meat-free day.
Instead of the usual egg-based mayonnaise, this version gets its creamy consistency from the naturally silken tofu. This type of tofu blends to a beautifully shiny, smooth purée – great for adding texture and nutrition to smoothies, healthy desserts and dips like this vegan aioli.
Garlic flavour is infused into the tofu cream in two ways. A whole head of roasted garlic adds a rich, caramel sweetness with none of the strength and bite of raw garlic, while a much smaller amount of uncooked garlic lends a further layer of fresh flavour. To tame the harshness of this raw garlic, it is first steeped in lemon juice – the acidity of the citrus gently ‘cooks’ the garlic. If your garlic has a green shoot in the centre, be sure to remove this before crushing the cloves – just slice the cloves along their length and poke it out with the tip of a knife. The shoot is very bitter and when used in raw applications such as this can affect the flavour of the food.
The lemon juice also adds wonderfully tart balance to the creamy tofu and a swirl or two of extra virgin olive oil brings that characteristic flavour of regular aioli.
Provence is the world leader in the production of rosé wine, accounting for the vast majority of its wine production. This is what will typically be served with an aioli monstre, and who am I to meddle any further with this fresh, healthy, seasonal celebration of vegetables and garlic?