I goofed up. I decided to make a batch of dill pickles last week and in my exuberance broke up more heads of garlic than I ended up needing. No big deal really, but I wanted to use up that garlic while it was still fresh.
So, I pulled out my stone mortar and pestle, a bottle of Greek extra virgin olive oil, a lemon, and some dried thyme--and made a small batch of flavored garlic paste.
Now while you could certainly blend these ingredients together in a small food processor, using a mortar and pestle really releases the oils of the garlic, with the olive oil, and transforms into a beautifully smooth and creamy spread.
You can use any combination of flavors--herbs like thyme, oregano, and rosemary or spices like cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle, or a curry powder mix. Add some salt, of course. And you can add zest from lemon, lime, or other citrus, plus some of the juice. What you create can be used to coat chicken or pork, toss with shrimp, spread on vegetables or on a baguette--all before roasting, grilling, or baking. You can add it to a pasta dish or add vinegar and create a dressing or marinade. And, you can blend it with sour cream and cream cheese to make a dip for crudites.
So, this is a very versatile little paste to have on hand. It's also extremely potent. But if you're a garlic lover, this is for you.
Lemon Thyme Garlic Paste
Yield: 1/4 cup
12 medium garlic cloves, peeled
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced or 1/4 teaspoon dried leaves
zest of half a lemon
juice from half a lemon
salt to taste
*several Altoids for after consuming (optional)
Add garlic cloves to a mortar bowl and use the pestle to crush them. Add one teaspoon of oil and mash with the garlic to create a paste. Gradually add two more teaspoons and continue mashing.
Add the thyme, zest, and salt to the garlic and oil. Work them into the mash, pressing against the wall of the mortar to crush the herbs and zest and bring out the oils. Add the rest of the oil and the lemon juice. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings and oil to get the flavor and texture you want.
I used my paste to coat a chicken thigh and two halves of a Japanese eggplant from my garden. I sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese on the eggplant as well. Then I baked the chicken and eggplant at 375˚ for about an hour, until they were beautifully browned. Both were oh so tender and while the flavor of the garlic, sweet and mellowed from cooking, predominated, I loved the undertones of lemon and bright thyme.