Le grand aïoli (or, my favorite, “aïoli monstre”) is a Provencal dish of boiled vegetables and simply prepared fish or shellfish served with aioli. In other words, a really elaborate excuse for eating copious amounts of garlicky mayonnaise. While quickly-snarfed desk lunches might be most of our realities, this is my argument for the snacky lunch—one that’s very low-maintenance, but just as grand-feeling as an aioli.
Let what's in your fridge guide your aïoli. Reach for a variety of textures (crisp, watery, soft, custardy) and aromas (herby, menthol, earthy, sweet, spicy). And don’t feel limited to blanched or raw vegetables. Roasting adds nice diversity and warmth, especially when fresh produce might feel limited or lackluster. (Try grilling, too, in the summertime.)
On Sunday afternoon, put on an episode of This American Life, and a pot of salty water to boil. Fill the sink with cool water, and drop in your fridge-tired vegetables for a good scrubbing. Towel them off and admire your work—freshly-scrubbed, gleaming, ready to be nestled alongside aioli and an ever-rotating can of seafood.
Experiment with any and all tinned seafoods (tuna, mussels, mackerel, octopus!), imported or not, you come across. The most expensive and prettily branded tins aren’t always the best tasting—just look out for whether the seafood is wild-caught or sustainably-sourced. I like getting extra-virgin-olive-oil packed tins—it makes for delicious eating right out of the can, but you can zhuzh up a water-packed fish by draining it well, tossing it with a mild, fruity olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some crunchy salt and pinch of aleppo or freshly cracked black pepper.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can certainly whisk the aïoli by hand. Just be extra sure to add the oil very, very slowly, and have a friend with a good whisking arm on hand to tag you out. —Coral Lee
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 1, with extra aïoli
clove garlic, grated
freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar
neutral oil, such as grapeseed or avocado oil
extra-virgin olive oil
large egg yolk
vegetables for blanching, like beets and/or tiny potatoes
raw, crunchy vegetables, like Little Gem leaves, radishes, cucumbers, and/or fennel wedges
5-ounce can oil-packed seafood (such as tuna, sardines, or mussels)
aïoli, for serving
- Combine the garlic, lemon, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and let stand for 3 minutes—this helps to mellow the garlic. Combine the oils in a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout.
- Add the egg yolk to the bowl with the garlic, and turn on the mixer to high. While it’s running, slowly—one drip-drop at a time!—add the oil. The aïoli will initially look chunky, then kind of greasy, and then it will start to emulsify. After more than half of the oil has been added and emulsified, you can pour in a steadier stream. Transfer the aïoli to an airtight jar and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Wash the raw, crunchy vegetables, and leave to perk up in a bowl of ice water.
- Blanch the blanching veggies until crisp-tender in a medium stockpot of boiling salted water (I estimate 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon kosher salt per quart of water). For hardier root vegetables and summer squashes, this will take 8 to10 minutes; for tender greens and peas, just 1 to 2 minutes. When the blanched veggies are and still vibrant, transfer to the bowl of ice water with the raw vegetables.
- Drain the raw and blanched veggies into a colander, and pat dry. Tuck into a lunch container alongside the aïoli and a can of oil-packed seafood.