The next time you bring a hostess gift to dinner, skip the flowers and present a puffy white cloud of garlic goodness instead. Lebanese cooks know it as toum (TOOM) and call it a sauce or paste. But it’s akin to alchemy.
Joseph Chemali learned how to make it from his uncle, a chef in Beirut. More than a half-century later, the former embassy chef and owner of Shemali’s Cafe and Market in Northwest Washington spins up to 10 pounds of toum weekly to complement his kebabs and give his customers a kitchen shortcut. In his native land, it’s slathered on the lavash that wraps hot, juicy rotisserie chicken.
Toum offers a gentle, handy alternative to the bite of raw garlic and the mishap of over-sauteed slices. It can outlast those whole heads of garlic sprouting on your shelf. Follow Chemali’s method for blending its five ingredients, and you, too, can create an aromatic nimbus.
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