Lemon basil aioli

Green tomatoes in grassWe harvested more green tomatoes off the struggling Big Beef plant, which meant more opportunities for fried green tomatoes. This time, though, I wanted a little bit of a change from the first round.

The Joy of Cooking had suggested serving the tomatoes with a garlic aioli, and also recommended using them in sandwiches. I mentioned this to Steve, who perked up immediately. “What about a bacon-lettuce-fried-green-tomato sandwich?” he said.


But I wanted truly outstanding sandwiches. So, on the Fourth of July, I figured I’d celebrate by, you know, making some French mayonnaise to spread on the sandwich bread. Just consider it my early effort in honor of Bastille Day.

Let me say that I always thought it would be easy to make aioli. I’ve read dozens of recipes that say things like, “Once you make your own mayonnaise, you’ll never go back to the jarred stuff.” And, of course, chefs and home cooks have been making this stuff for years.

I’m good at cooking, but it took me three tries to get this right. Please learn from my mistakes: let everything get to room temperature first, and go slowly. Really, really slowly. Even if, like me, you are not a patient person.

The first time through, I put garlic, salt and ice cold egg yolks in the food processor, whirled them up, and then started adding olive oil. What I didn’t realize is that by “a drop at a time,” recipes really mean a drop at a time, This isn’t like baking cookies, where you can kind of fudge on that part where they tell you to add the dry ingredients slowly to the wet ingredients. All the recipes, in this case, really mean to go a drop at a time.

So, I decided to dump the mess of olive oil and cold yolks into a bowl and start whisking, in case that would work better. Two minutes later, my arm was exhausted, and nothing was getting any thicker, so I poured everything in the blender. Still no thickening, and I gave up on Batch #1.

Weekend Herb BloggingJust before I started Batch #2, I did more research to see what I was doing wrong. This was when I learned that I’d added the oil far too quickly, and so, on attempt number two, I tried going with the blender from the start, but just adding oil a drop at a time. I also learned that this works better if all ingredients are at room temperature. As I started this round, Steve asked if there was anything he could do to help.

“Well, if you know how to make mayonnaise, then sure,” I said. “I have no idea what I’m doing, and this is supposed to be easy.”

Steve stuck it out at his laptop, typing away while I began whirling up a room-temperature egg (I gave up on the yolks-only proposition for Batches #2 and #3) and the next round of garlic in the blender. I started adding olive oil a drop at a time, trying to be patient, letting the blender run in between, just barely peeking in to see what was happening. The answer? Absolutely nothing. Everything just kept whirling around, liquid as ever. Worse? Whenever I peeked, I got a splash of garlicky, eggy oil in my eye, which burned.

Just as I started to get really annoyed, disaster struck. The clear plastic top of the blender, which fits perfectly into the rubber lid, dropped through its center hole and into the whirling mess. Steve leapt to his feet as I hollered and punched blender buttons. “Oh no!” he yelled. “What happened?”

A piece of blender flew past my shoulder and across the room.

“Aahh! Aahh! Aahh!” I yelled, as little droplets of oily egg flew everywhere.

I managed to get it stopped, and we hunted for the pieces of plastic that had shot all over the place. “I’ll buy you a new blender,” I said.

Unwilling to be defeated, I went for Batch #3, this time back to the food processor. “French women have been doing this for years,” I said. “But if this doesn’t work this time, I’m not ever doing this again.”

Miraculously, this time, I must have worked slowly enough. First the eggs and garlic and kosher salt whirled together, then I began feeding in olive oil a drop at a time. For awhile, it looked like it wasn’t going to work, but suddenly, the texture changed. “Oh my God,” I crowed. “It’s magic!”

SandwichI began drizzling the rest of the oil in, as instructed, and Steve came over to peek in the feed tube. “Look,” I said. “Aioli!”

I had my fresh basil chopped and waiting in a small silicone muffin cup that I find works as well for prep work as for baking. As I started to dump the basil into the tube, Steve pointed at the little silicone cup and said, “Don’t drop that in there.”

I added lemon juice and let it run about another five seconds before scraping out the bowl. The aioli served as a perfect spread for the oatmeal bread I picked up at the coop. I fried up some Amana Colonies pepper bacon, and layered it on the sandwich with the fried green tomatoes and some spinach (the lettuce we had in the house was questionable, and nothing ruins a sandwich faster than bad lettuce…).

Lemon basil aioliLemon Basil Aioli

1 raw egg (use pasteurized eggs if you’re concerned about salmonella)
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Let all ingredients come to room temperature before beginning. Add the egg, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixed.

Begin adding the olive oil through the feed tube a drop at a time. Let the food processor run while you do this, and give it time. Eventually, you’ll notice the mixture getting thicker, and when that happens, start adding the olive oil a little faster. As it gets even thicker, you can start adding the olive oil in a thin stream, steadily, while the food processor continues to run.

Add the lemon juice and basil and let the processor run about five more seconds. Scrape into a bowl, cover and chill.

The aioli will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for about two days. It’s great in potato salad, with fish, on sandwiches or in wraps, or, if you’ve got the Euro-fever, with French fries. Pregnant women and elderly folks, sorry, but this one isn’t for you…the raw eggs aren’t recommended for your diet.

This post is part of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn’s Kitchen. Check out all the other great recipes from this week!

23 Responses to “Lemon basil aioli”

  1. 1 kalyn July 16, 2006 at 10:38 am

    I am very impressed, not only with your persistence, but also with your results. I’m also not patient (to the tenth power) so I know what you mean. I’ve never even attempted aioli, but maybe I should give it a try. I bet yours would taste wonderful on so many things!

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener July 16, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Thanks, Kalyn! It was delicious, but I don’t know that it’s something I’d make often. Sure, it’s better than the jarred stuff, but there’s also that issue of whether or not you’re going to die of salmonella, and the issue of whether or not you want to eat all that aioli in two days! Still, it was pretty darn good eatin’…

  3. 3 steven July 16, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    It’s not nice to laugh at other people’s misfortunes, but I’m not nice.bwahahahaha!
    I’m glad you stuck it out though, ‘cos aoili is one of the best things to eat, ev-ar.

    Mario Batali has a pretty good pasta sauce recipe for green and not-so-ripe end of the season tomatoes.

    Spaghetti con Pomodoro Verdi

  4. 4 Carol July 16, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    I love a good BLT sandwich, but I have neither the experience or patience to go through what you went through to make the French mayo. I’ll stick with Helllman’s and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. I’ll hopefully have a tomato big enough so that one slice covers the whole piece of toast!

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener July 17, 2006 at 5:30 am

    Steven, Excellent — I’m definitely checking out that recipe. Right now, there are still some tomatoes on the Big Beef plant that may never ripen up, so I might use them for that.

    Carol, there is usually at least a month of the summer when I subsist on BLTs made with farmer’s market tomatoes (particularly, this year, if ours never get underway). I love the ones that are bread-sized!

  6. 6 Barrie July 17, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    Hmmm…fried green tomatoes in Iowa City…via D.C. > here in Georgia visitors make fun of fried green tomatoes, so it’s good to see others in the gardening world love them too…and my mother loves the Joy of Cooking > I love her dearly, but I’ve always felt a little cool towards that tome.

    Wonderful site! Barrie

  7. 7 colesedwards July 17, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    You need to try homeade ceasar dressing next. Same premise. You don’t need room temp eggs…just add about a tsp of oil and whirl for a bit. Then a tad more. Whirl. Tad more whirl…until it starts to thicken slightly. Fresh eggs work the best. You can also coddle the egg so the yoke is hot but still runny and make it that way and then anyone can eat it.

    Try a dab of horseradish or wasbi next time..yum.

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener July 18, 2006 at 12:15 am

    Barrie, I can’t believe visitors make fun of fried green tomatoes…they just can’t know what they’re missing. I’ve always loved them, even before I knew how to make them! As for the Joy of Cooking, I usually use that as a guide, and then move off in my own direction. But I have enjoyed using it as a base for my own cooking. It seems to have just about everything!

    Colesedwards, I love-love-love fresh caesar dressing. Hadn’t even thought of that. I’m putting that on the list — that would be fabulous. And yes, the dab of wasabi would be good in the aioli — I think I saw on someone else’s blog that they used that in aioli and then put it on salmon, which sounds really, really divine.

  9. 9 colesedwards July 18, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    That Thai red chilli sauce is good too …for Roast Beast or some fried yummy tofu.


  10. 10 Jeanne July 19, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Well done! I might try this. I guess because I too, am crazy, like you. That must be it! I love to make a mess in the kitchen, never getting discouraged or giving up. Wacko’s! I do understand why many people don’t cook, I just can’t be like them for some unknow reason.

  11. 11 JMom July 21, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    I like the idea of the aioli and the fried green tomato sandwich! I will definitely be trying this, and thanks for perfecting the recipe for the rest of us :-)

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener July 22, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Cole, I happen to have some Thai red chili sauce in the fridge right now…you’re tempting me, you’re tempting me!

    Jeanne, cooking is my sanity-saver. I love getting in there and messing around. It allows me to focus, which I love.

    JMom, enjoy the sandwiches, and I send you good wishes for aioli that works on the first try!

  13. 13 Megan August 18, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    I just found your blog and I really enjoy it! This recipe looks great – I’ve never made aioli or mayo, etc, but this looks fantastic! I grew up in I.C. so I’ve had fun reading about your experiences. You must be drowning in tomatoes by now – and that Amana bacon is good stuff! =)

  14. 14 inadvertentgardener August 20, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Megan, you’re right — that bacon kicks it. I try to stick to faux soy-based bacon most of the time, but there are times when a little Amana bacon is quite good for the soul. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy the recipe, and I look forward to continuing to follow your cooking adventures, as well!

  15. 15 JMom September 6, 2006 at 10:51 am

    hi! I tried your BLGT and aioli, it was delicious! We’re addicted. :) I just posted my version. Thanks again!

  16. 16 Nicole October 31, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    Sounds great! Happy Halloween!

  17. 17 janelle May 28, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Fun story:). Sounds delish! BTW LOVE your tagline:)

  18. 18 scotchcart May 28, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I love your by line – yeah a home grown tomato and basil off my my own bush – heaven.

    I am going to try this recipe because I simply hate mayonnaise – cannot abide the stuff.

    But tell me – do you use a blender or a whisk? My blender is hand held and I can switch the blender for a whisk. What I can’t do is run the blender continuously – I have to hold the button down.

  19. 19 inadvertentgardener June 3, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    JMom, I know it’s been awhile, but I finally checked out your post — great stuff!

    Nicole, a, um, belated happy Halloween to you, too (how on earth did I miss your comment for that long?).

    Janelle, thanks! I’m enjoying your blog, too — thanks for stopping by!

    Scotchcart, I use a blender (the jar kind rather than the handheld kind). It makes my shorter work of it…

  20. 20 jodie July 11, 2008 at 11:47 am

    1. I <3 Iowa City… Amanas have the best potato pancakes ever!!!

    2. If you’re going to continue making aioli, mayo, salad dressing, etc., you may want to invest in an immersion mixer (aka a “stick”). Makes emulsions like 10 times easier (you can generally just throw everything into a bowl or jar and just “stick it”). Also, I usually put the lemon juice/acid in at the beginning, which makes thinness less likely. And I recently read a tip that if you’re still not getting a thick texture at the end, you can put a room temp egg yolk in a bowl and slowly whisk your unthickened mixture into it.


  21. 21 inadvertentgardener July 16, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Jodie, I actually have one of those immersion blenders, but really only use it when I’m making soup. I’ll have to try it with aioli and salad dressing — good call!

  22. 22 Natalie October 27, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Hi there,

    I just tried your recipe. And it worked:) I am so proud of my self because i tend to burn brownies if ya know what i mean. Thanks alot and i look forward to checking out more on your blog.


  23. 23 inadvertentgardener November 12, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Natalie, I’m so glad it worked for you! I encourage you to check out more recipes on my updated blog, http://www.theinadvertentgardener.com.

Comments are currently closed.

Getting in touch

Need garden advice? Then you probably shouldn't send me an email.

Also, please note that this site has now relocated and will not be updated. You can find me at the new and improved location.

Take a look back…

All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

Drop in & Decorate

Bake. Decorate. Donate.
Free guide tells you how!