Toum, Lebanese Garlic Spread

Recipe by: Maureen Abood

One simple way to peel a whole head of garlic is to loosen the cloves, then shake them like crazy between two large metal bowls. This releases the cloves from the peels for the most part. Toum made by hand is delicious, though not as smooth and light as toum made in the food processor. If your toum is too bracing in garlic flavor, let it rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. The flavor will mellow with time. Serve toum with any grilled meat or fish, as a dip with bread or chips, or in vinaigrettes or any recipe you want to add garlic to. The toum will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

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Ingredients

By hand:

  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ice water (optional)

For small-batch, In a mini-processor:

  • 1 head garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons ice water (optional)

For large-batch, in a standard processor:

  • 1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 to 4 cups neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons ice water (optional)

Instructions

  1. To prepare the garlic, slice the cloves in half lengthwise and remove any green sprouts. Worth the effort here, as the sprouts contribute to burn and bitterness.

  2. If making toum by hand, mince or grate the garlic on a fine grater into a medium bowl. Set the bowl over a towel or use a non-skid bowl, to hold it in place as you whisk. If making toum in a processor, blitz the garlic with the salt until it is minced, stopping to scrape down the bowl as you go.

  3. Take your time here. Whisking constantly or with the processor running, use a teaspoon to drop a droplet of oil into the garlic. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Then add another droplet, stop and scrape, then another. Continue in this way even though at first it seems like nothing is happening.

  4. Once the garlic begins to look a bit creamy, you can add the oil a couple of droplets at a time, stopping and scraping the bowl down as you go. Stay with it.

  5. Continue in this way until the garlic becomes thick and spreadable. Once the emulsion is fully formed and what you have looks like a thick white spread, you can increase the speed of adding the oil. Rather than droplets, add the oil in a slow, thin, steady stream while processing or whisking. Stop and taste and keep adding more oil if the toum is too strong. Don't be surprised if this process takes up to 15-20 minutes.

  6. Finish by processing or whisking in the lemon juice and ice water.