Last night Andrew and I decided to make a Spanish meal consisting of albondigas (meatballs) and alioli (a garlic and olive oil dip). We bought a mortar and pestle specifically with alioli in mind, and we found a recipe in a tapas cookbook Molly and Ian had gotten us for Christmas. The instructions seem simple: crush four cloves of garlic in the mortar, and continue stirring slowly with the pestle as you add one-and-a-half cups of olive oil (!) in drop by drop. It’s a labor-intensive, time-consuming process, but the cookbook chef assured us that eventually, the garlic and olive oil would fuse into a fluffy, rich paste.
We stirred. We added and stirred. Yet after thirty minutes of stirring, the crushed garlic and olive oil mixture was still liquidy—the magical, alchemical reaction was, it seemed, not in our future. It was still tasty (we just drizzled it over our albondigas and fingerling potatoes), but definitely not alioli. Andrew suspects our olive oil was to blame, a cheap grocery store brand and not high-quality Spanish extra-virgin. Time to upgrade, I suppose, before we attempt the alioli again.