Lebanese Garlic Dip – Toum

In Lebanon, chicken is seldom ever served without its companion, the garlic dip, or toum.  When chicken is grilled, seared, baked, roasted, or cooked in any form or fashion, except in a soup, you must have a garlic dip at the table.  I know this could be intense for most, but if you try it, just a very tiny dollop on your chicken, you will love it.  I, of course, use a heaping spoonful of this stuff on every bite of chicken, French fries, bread, etc.  I always feed it to my husband as well, as to avoid him from running away from me.  Let’s just say, your breath will be … hmmm … pungent for the next day or two.  But, it is all worth it for me.

LEBANESE GARLIC DIP – TOUM – The Brave Version (mild version listed below)

3 Garlic heads
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Grape Seed Oil or Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon – juiced

Begin by peeling the garlic.  The following step is what I do to minimize the after effects that can last for a day or two, or so I am told by many more experienced Lebanese cooks.  Cut the garlic in the middle lengthwise, then remove the ‘heart’, what eventually becomes a green sprout of sorts.  If your garlic is very fresh, you do not need to complete the previous step, as the ‘heart’ is very small with no evidence of any green sprouts.

Traditionally, this is where you mash the garlic with a pinch of salt in a rather large mortar and pestle, until it becomes a paste.  After which, you slowly drizzle the oil and stir the paste clockwise to allow the garlic to absorb the oil, thus quadrupling in size.  Do not change directions once you are stirring a certain way, as the paste will break.  If the garlic breaks, well, you have to start over.

Because the above method takes quite a while to complete, and I do not have a large mortar and pestle, I use a blender (instructions are below).  Some use a processor to accomplish this goal.  If you choose to use a food processor, you must grate the garlic with a microplane first to maximize its oil absoption, then place it in the food processor with the salt.  If you let the food processor do the garlic chopping, it will not come to the desired mayonnaise like consistency at the end.  After which, place the oil in the feeding tube insert.  As the oil slowly drizzles into the processing garlic, it will begin to achieve the desired result.  However …

In this case, I much PREFER to use a blender, as it is much faster and fool proof.  Place the garlic, salt, oil, and lemon juice in the blender and let it go.  Allow to blend for about 2 minutes, or when you see a solid mayonnaise like consistency to the garlic dip.  In other words, the components may need to be blended for a longer or a shorter amount of time, depending on the blender.  Once the desired consistency is achieved, place the garlic dip in a bowl, cover, and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving with your amazing chicken.

LEBANESE MILD GARLIC DIP – TOUM – The Mild Version

1 Garlic head
Pinch of Salt
4 cups Grape Seed Oil or Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon – juiced
1 cup Veganaise or Mayonnaise

Follow the method in the instructions above by using a blender or a food processor to achieve the desired emulsion from blending the garlic, oil, lemon juice, and salt.  If the resulting garlic dip is very strong in flavor, add a cup (or however much you desire) of veganaise or mayonnaise and mix well.  This should yield a mild garlic dip to accompany your delicious chicken or whatever wonderful meal you made.  I know that most of my family and friends prefer this mild dip.  I, however, prefer “The Brave” one.


Spinach Salad w/ Avocado & Walnuts

Salad is absolutely my favorite thing to make and eat, especially, with a crusty baguette.  Well, I guess anything is good with a baguette.  I think it all began when I was attempting to be healthy after graduate school, where my diet was horrible.  My food and drink consumption consisted of many cups or pots of coffee, overcooked “things” I occasionally had at 24 hour diners, and all simple carbohydrates.  So, when I graduated and began my career, I decided to go back to the way I used to eat, the way my mother taught me.  Salads were the first concoctions I made.  I found them to be so exciting, as I could make them with anything I liked.  I also experimented with many homemade dressings; however, I always seemed to go back to old faithful, my mother’s traditional Lebanese salad dressing made of freshly grated or mashed garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.  Fast forward nine years, now I am known as the “salad girl” among my family and close friends.  Allow me to share with you one of my favorite salads.

SPINACH SALAD WITH AVOCADO AND WALNUTS

4 ounces of organic baby Spinach
1 cup of cherry Tomatoes
2 Avocadoes
1/2 Green Olives – pitted and chopped
1/2 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1/4 cup Mint
1/4 cup toastes Walnuts
1/4 cup toasted Almonds

Lebanese Salad Dressing

2 Lemons juiced
4 Garlic cloves – grated or mashed
1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper – freshly grated
a pinch of Red Chili Flakes (OPTIONAL)

In a large bowl, place the washed spinach and top it with sliced cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, chopped green olives, finely chopped Italian parsley, and chopped mint.  In a small bowl, you can grate the garlic with a microplane or mash it with a mortar and pestle.  Add the salt & pepper, lemon juice, and the extra virgin olive oil.  If you choose to add a bit of spice, mix a pinch of red chili flakes.

I usually buy raw walnuts and dry roasted almonds.  If you buy them both toasted, then great, you can omit this step.  If, however, you you buy them raw, then you may want to toast them on the stove or in the oven.  I believe the oven works best, but this time, I used the stove.  In a pan, toast the walnuts over medium low heat.  Be very careful not to burn them, as their natural oil allows them to burn very easily, if you neglect them, even for small moment.  After they are toasted to your liking, chop them on a dry cutting board, along with the almonds.  Add them to the salad.  Add the dressing and mix well.  Now plate and enjoy with your heavenly baguette.