This Mexican garlic-olive-oil infusion is the purest liquid gold for your kitchen. Stir it into pastas, salsas, dips, or just drizzle it on a crusty hunk of bread. All you need is three ingredients!
I can't remember a time when I was so excited to get into the kitchen and start peeling four nail-burning heads of garlic as when I saw Rick Bayless stir up some garlic-gold alchemy on public television with his Mojo de Ajo.
This was years ago, but to date, this mojo de ajo (pronounced moho de aho, with a soft "d") has remained my favorite condiment and one I make it a point to have around to make mealtimes easier--and tastier.
Mojo de ajo literally translates into a sauce of garlic. It is a traditional Mexican dish with infinitely delicious possibilities, and you can see why. Think of a ton of spicy garlic drowned in fruity olive oil and then kissed alive by tangy lemon juice. It's magic.
This garlic-infused olive oil is great on almost anything: drizzle a few drops on toast or a salad, stir it into pasta, even toss some root vegetables in it and roast them. We sometimes use it as a dip for these vegan sourdough pretzels.
And of course, there's a plethora of Mexican dishes you can add it to for some extra mojo at the dinner table.
I just stirred it into a batch of these roasted Brussels sprouts and we couldn't have enough!
Around four heads or 50 or so cloves. I sometimes just buy pre-peeled garlic to save myself the rouble, and you can, of course, do that with no compromises on the end result. If the cloves are small (as mine were this time) you may want to use more.
Given the amount of garlic we consume in our home, I've tried every possible trick in the book, from rattling the pods within two bowls, to shaking them in a jar. I've place a heavy knife on the garlic, a pod at a time, and smacked the blade with the heel of my hand to get the papery skin off. I still do that for small quantities of garlic, but it can get painful if you have too many pods to peel.
The most effective way to peel garlic, I've found, is to just crush the clove lightly with a pestle or any heavy kitchen implement you have on hand. This helps the peel pop off easily and crushing the garlic can actually increase its positive health effects, according to scientists.
Extra virgin, hands down. You want the fruity aroma of EVOO in the mojo to make it extra flavorful.
I follow Bayless's recipe pretty closely, so the only ingredients I add to the mojo de ajo are lime juice and salt. They impart tons of flavor.
You can add a few chipotle chili flakes or arbol chili flakes, if you want some spice. If you do, add them at the time you add the lime juice and salt.
Keep the mojo in the refrigerator--it can last up to three months in an airtight jar, although experience tells me it won't be around for that long!
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Mojo de Ajo
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Place the garlic in an 8-inch-square glass baking dish and pour the EVOO over it.
- Place the dish in the hot oven and bake 45 minutes.
- Add the lime juice and salt and return to the oven for another 20 minutes for the flavors to infuse.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and, once the oil has cooled mash the garlic with a fork or potato masher. Pour it all into an air-tight glass jar.
- The mojo de ajo keeps for at least three months in a refrigerator.