toum | garlic spread

toum | garlic spread

I had been making toum (Lebanese garlic spread) one particular way for a while now—I would blend the garlic, and then alternate water and oil, drizzling them in very slowly. But no matter how careful I was, my emulsion would sometimes inexplicably break. One particular day, when I was making a big batch for a party of seventy-five, I tried making toum four times in a row, and was left with nothing but garlic and oil splattered glasses and a half gallon of garlicky swill. It was not my finest hour.

But I recently gleaned a really helpful strategy from my friend Cosette’s toum recipe. If you know anything about Cosette, this shouldn’t surprise you, because she is the unequivocal queen of toum. I’ve started incorporating this method into my own recipe, and ever since this shift I’ve been batting 1000 with my emulsion successfully taking. I don’t know if I can say my recipe is absolutely 100% fail-proof, because I’m not sure that a fail-proof toum recipe can actually exist, but it’s been working really well for me, and I hope you have the same success rate trying it at home.

Here’s the key thing I learned from Cosette: it works much better to add all the water at once toward the beginning, before slowly drizzling in the oil, rather than alternating between drizzling in water and oil. I prefer starting with garlic and salt, then grinding them up in the food processor until the garlic is puréed or finely chopped (the salt helps it break up a little more easily than just adding the garlic right in with the water). Then you simply add the cold water, blend it together even more until the garlic liquifies, and begin slowly drizzling in the oil. Once all the oil is added, it will have emulsified, and will even start to thin out into an aioli consistency, at which point you drizzle in the lemon juice to help it seize up and thicken a little more (and to give it some zing and preservation).

From there, the possibilities are endless. I’m going to post one of my favorite ways to use toum in just a couple days, but until then, feel free to experiment with using it as a marinade, in a little bowl with your favorite meze, as a dip for a ho-hum store-bought rotisserie chicken, and basically anywhere you want to add a lot of garlicky flavor, some richness, and a little acidity. But before you check out the recipe, make sure you also read over my list of ways to prevent your emulsion from breaking, which should help keep you out of trouble.

toum | garlic spread
toum | garlic spread

How to make sure your emulsion doesn’t break:

  1. Add the water all at once with the finely chopped garlic toward the beginning.

  2. Drizzle in the oil in a slow and steady stream. Whatever you do, do not add it all at once.

  3. Don’t let the food processor or blender run gratuitously (especially if you have a high-power blender, which can overheat quickly). If you’re taking a break from streaming in oil, don’t let it run longer than a couple seconds. But make sure you do let it run for 1 or 2 seconds after you stop drizzling in the oil to make sure it fully incorporates.

  4. Don’t make toum in large batches, even if your blender or food processor is big enough to hold that much liquid. This recipe is the maximum amount you should make at a time. This shouldn’t be a problem, because it’s incredibly strong, and easy to whip up whenever. If you’re cooking for a huge party and need to make extra, make it in a couple batches. You might sometimes get away with doubling this recipe, but it will most likely break about half the time, and anything more than doubling it will break just about every single time. Trust me when I say I’ve learned from experience.

  5. Use cold water and cold lemon juice.

  6. Use a very clean blender or food processor.

  7. Use fresh garlic (I learned this tip from Maureen Abood’s recipe, and I think it helps a bit with the emulsion taking, but either way, it certainly helps with flavor).

  8. Follow the recipe below, which accounts for all this advice, and it won’t steer you wrong.

toum | garlic spread
toum | garlic spread

toum | garlic spread

yield: about 2 cups*
total time: 15 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 90g very fresh peeled garlic cloves (heaping 1/2 cup, from a 105g head)

  • 1.5g salt (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 55g cold water (1/4 cup)

  • 315g neutral oil (1 1/2 cups)**

  • 30g cold lemon juice (2 tablespoons)

  • special equipment: a high-powered blender***

  1. Combine the garlic and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend at a low speed until the garlic is coarsely puréed. Add the water and blend at medium speed until it liquefies. Turn the blender off when you’re not using it, to prevent it from overheating.

  2. With the blender running at a medium-low speed, remove the cap from the lid (but keep the lid on so it doesn’t splatter/for safety), and start to slowly drizzle in the oil through the small opening. Try to aim the stream of the oil for the center of the blades. Do not pour the oil too quickly or the emulsion will break.

  3. Once all of the oil has been added, the toum should be thick and white, kind of like an aioli or thin mayo. Slowly pour in the lemon juice while the blender is running. The toum will thicken a bit more, and then it’s ready to use. You can store in in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks (adding more lemon juice will allow you to store it longer, for more like 1 month).

* Do not double this recipe. Toum is an eggless emulsion, so it’s very temperamental, and will break very easily. It must be made in small batches. Let the blender cool down between batches, because excessive heat can also cause the emulsion to break. This shouldn’t be a problem, because you probably won’t need more than 2 cups at a time. It’s strong stuff!

** Do not use extra virgin olive oil for this (although it works alright with super refined olive oil. I like to use canola, but any other neutral oil will work).

*** If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you can totally make toum in a food processor instead. The danger of making it with a high speed blender is letting it run too long, which makes the toum overheat and break. On the other hand, the danger of making it with a food processor is not puréeing the garlic enough at the beginning, so make sure you mince it finely with the salt, and then slowly add the water. In either case, it’s important to add the oil slowly, but you’ll want to add it a little extra slowly when using a food processor.

toum | garlic spread

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strawberry sour plum pie

strawberry sour plum pie

Lately I’ve been revisiting a few recipes from way back when I first started blogging. In those first couple months, (like most brand-new blogs), I would get a slow trickle of visitors on a good day, and now that the Cardamom and Tea family has grown quite a bit, there’s a very good chance that you have never seen or heard of my strawberry sour plum pie (or if you have heard of it, then… hi mom!). And that just won’t do, because it’s one of my favorites, and I hope it becomes one of yours this spring. It’s the perfect thing to make for Mother’s Day next weekend, and the perfect way to get a head start on pie season.

While revisiting this recipe (originally posted May 30, 2017), I decided to update a few things for you guys to make it easier. I streamlined the recipe a bit, added grams to provide an option for folks outside the US as well as anyone who wants precisely consistent results, and updated the photos while I was at it. It’s fun seeing a the photos side by side, to appreciate how much I’ve learned since starting (like how to light a shot, how not to overexpose a photo, how to color balance a photo, how to crimp pie dough, how not to burn crust, how to lattice neatly…). The most I can hope for is to look back on these photos in two years and think the same.

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

But anyway, let’s talk about sour plums! We’re right at the start of the season, which is very exciting indeed. Jarareng is one of many names for green sour plums, which are available for just a few weeks, right after the trees have fruited but before they’ve had a chance to ripen. By the beginning of June, they will soften and sweeten, and will lose their crunch and tang, turning into an entirely different fruit.

Jarareng always makes me think of one of my family’s favorite stories. When my mom was three, she traveled from Baghdad to her mom's family's farm in north-eastern Syria, and her uncle, Badel, gave her a freshly-picked sour plum from their orchard. She absolutely loved it and asked if she could have some more, but Badel didn't want her to spoil her appetite, so he said no. My mom then insisted that if he didn't give her another, she would tell her mom not to be his sister anymore. Jarareng brings out the sassiness in us all.

Maybe we all love jarareng so much because super-seasonal produce is only around for a short time, and it never seems possible to have had enough once time is up. But there’s also something very nostalgic about fleeting fruits and vegetables—they transport us back to a specific time and place in a way that more ubiquitous foods can’t. While I’ve had asparagus in the heart of fall, and acceptably ripe tomatoes in the dead of winter, jarareng are pretty much impossible to find outside of those few weeks in May. And I think because of this, it always brings back memories with a little extra nostalgia.

So seek jarareng out and eat them plain, with a little salt, thinking of good memories or creating new ones (now! before it's too late! Seriously, stop reading, go to the store, buy some, and then come back and finish reading this—I explain where to find them in the note below the recipe). And if you've never tried baking with jarareng, if you (somehow!) have a surplus that's sitting around and slowly losing their tart crunchiness, it's time to bake a pie before it's too late.

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

strawberry sour plum pie

yield: 8 servings
active time: 1 hour
total time: 3 hours 45 minutes
download a
PDF to print

crust *

  • 400g all purpose flour (about 3 cups)

  • 7g salt (1 teaspoon)

  • 230g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (2 sticks)

  • 120g cold plain yogurt (1/2 cup)

  • 30g cold water (2 tablespoons)

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times, until the butter blends into the flour, and there aren’t any lumps bigger than a tic tac. Add the yogurt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. Drizzle in the water. Pulse a few times until it can be squeezed together into a pliable and smooth dough (don’t over-process). If the dough won’t come together, add a few more drops of water at a time.

  2. Shape the dough into 2 equal balls, flatten the balls into discs, cover each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for just 30 minutes. Work on the filling while you wait.

filling and baking

  • Chilled pie dough (above)

  • 370g pitted and quartered sour green plums ** (3 cups quartered, from about 500g whole)

  • 370g hulled and quartered strawberries (3 cups sliced, from about 450g whole)

  • 200g sugar (1 cup)

  • 1.5g teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon)

  • 50g quick cooking minute tapioca (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

  • Egg wash: 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoon cream or water

  1. While the dough is chilling, combine the plums, strawberries, sugar, salt, and tapioca, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) .

  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first round of chilled dough out to between 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick; it should be quite a bit wider than the pie pan (about 13-13.5 inches). Rotate occasionally as you work, but try not to handle the dough too much.

  4. Once it’s rolled out, gently wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Unroll it onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently press the dough into place so it’s in contact with the entire pan.

  5. Roll out the second crust to the same thickness, and then cut it into long strips, about 3/4 to 1 inch wide.

  6. Fill the pie shell with the fruit filling, gently pressing it down with the back of a spoon to get rid of any gaps.

  7. Assemble the lattice top: First, place half the strips going in one direction all along the pie, with narrow gaps in between them. Then fold back every other strip and place another strip perpendicular to them at the edge of the pie. Drape the lifted strips back over the perpendicular strip. Repeat, alternating which of the parallel strips are lifted, adding the next perpendicular strip each time, until the whole pie is covered.

  8. Once the pie is covered, dab a little water under the edge of each strip to make sure they stick to the bottom crust. Evenly trim the excess edges (both the top and bottom). Use a fork to crimp it all the way around. Place the pie in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

  9. Once the top feels firm, brush the pie’s surface with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes at 400°F (205°C).

  10. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for another 45 minutes. If the edges of the crust start to brown too quickly for your liking, use a crown of tin foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

  11. Place the pie on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours, until it comes to room temperature.

* To make this dairy free, use your favorite shortening-based crust recipe, and use the water option instead of cream in the egg wash. Most recipes out there have a combination of shortening and butter, but you can usually use a combination of vegan butter substitute and shortening to make a crust recipe dairy free. Or to make this gluten free, use your favorite gluten free crust recipe (use a gluten free all purpose flour blend that includes xanthan gum to make sure the crust isn’t too flaky).

** Also known as jarareng, gojeh sabz, ume, méi, or erik, these plums are available in early to mid spring in Middle Eastern/Asian markets and some farmers’ markets. Some are a little on the crunchy side, especially early in the season. If yours are extra-crunchy, microwave them for a minute or two before mixing them in with the strawberries. Jarareng cling to their pits, so always cut away from your hand, and follow this GIF:

strawberry sour plum pie
strawberry sour plum pie

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