Those welcome harbingers of spring have arrived. Early blooms of crocus, daffodils and hyacinth waking up from cold winter naps. Stone fruit trees dressing up in impossibly tiny pink blossoms. Songbirds chirping through longer days. At the farmer’s market, the bins of root vegetables give way to cheerful splashes of green: brigades of asparagus spears, foothills of English peas, fava beans nestled in their downy pods. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find green garlic.
Also known as baby or spring garlic, green garlic looks like the missing link of the allium family tree: they’re quite like miniature leeks or overgrown spring onions, and easy to confuse in a side-by-side comparison to wild ramps. If left in the ground, the bulb end eventually matures and splits into separate cloves to form the familiar vampire-deterring head of garlic; after harvest, mature garlic’s green tops are lopped off and the bulbs cured for long storage. Green garlic shares the same distinctive aroma as full-grown garlic, but bears a soft, mellow flavor without a single trace of sharpness, perfumed rather than pungent.
Chop green garlic to scatter into omelets or whisk into a flavorful, bright aïoli. It’s heaven as a dip for steamed artichokes or asparagus (more proof of the adage “what grows together goes together”) or slathered on broiled chicken sandwiches, as we did the other night. If you’re a purist or without a food processor, you can prepare this aïoli the old-fashioned, Provençal way: mashing up everything but the oil in a bowl (or better yet, with a mortar and pestle) and whisking it by hand. It will take a bit of elbow grease to get there, but you’ll have a lush bowl of springtime on the other side.
Green Garlic Aïoli
adapted from Chow; makes 1 1/2 C
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1/4 C green garlic, white and light green parts finely chopped
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 C vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
To the bowl of a food processor, add the egg, green garlic and mustard. Pulse until well combined. Remove the feed tube and with the processor running, add the oil in a very thin stream until incorporated, at least five minutes. Add the lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt.
Note: while some well-stocked markets will carry green garlic in the early spring, it’s easiest to come across it at farmer’s markets. When making the aïoli, use farm-fresh eggs; you’ll still want to avoid serving it to guests who are elderly, pregnant, or have a compromised immune system. You can also substitute pasteurized eggs.