Raw garlic is a tough sell. It’s got a way spicier bite than its cooked-through counterparts—whether roasted until jammy and sweet, fried into chips, or infused into oil—and a stronger, sharper scent. But that’s why were here. To show you the magic of raw garlic. Are you ready to be sold?
I’ll leave the task to Andy Baraghani, who created a riff on a traditional Spanish ajo blanco—a cold soup made of pureed blanched almonds, grapes, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and raw garlic. In his version, the soup is instead a sauce that can be drizzled over lettuce, spooned atop flaky white fish, scooped up by torn warm pita, or poured over crunchy, refreshing cucumbers. Make Cucumbers with Ajo Blanco Sauce and you’ll be addicted to the stuff.
Andy’s version also nixed the grapes, a specifically sweet and slightly acidic flavor that would have made it less versatile. But the rest, is pretty much the same: All those ingredients, plus ice water, get pulverized in a blender until completely smooth. The ice water is key to a nice consistency, to mellow the grassiness of the olive oil and the garlickiness of the garlic—and to keep the motor and base of the blender from overheating and making warm sauce (no thank you).
The recipe call for only one clove of garlic, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But it is. For one, it’s raw, which means extremely pungent. There’s also a lot of fat in there, coming from both the almonds and the olive oil. As you may know, fat is the great carrier of scent and flavor, which means the garlic has a lot to cling to. ”It also becomes more assertive the longer it sits,” says Andy. “It will not be nearly as strong right after you blend it as it is even a few hours later.”
But the best thing I learned about this sauce, is that it really just a template you can play with. You can sub hazelnuts or cashews for the almonds, you can add some tender herbs, like mint or cilantro. You can throw in a chile for extra heat, or a spice like turmeric, cumin, or coriander. “Anything that goes well with garlic is a good bet,” Andy says.
Which is just about anything we can think of.