January is the most diet-friendly month of the year. After New Year's Day there are no major (American) holidays involving food. You've more than likely just come off a month-long gluttonous binge and are ready for lighter meals. Plus, there are usually friends happy to join in on a first-of-the-year health kick!
The problem is, we all define "eating healthy" differently these days. For some a healthy diet means gluten-free. To others sugar-free is the straight and narrow path. Not to mention those that go: low-carb, no-carb, high-protein, vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, whole-grain, raw-foods-only, yeast-free, heavy-on-supplements, or organic locavore. It's dizzying to keep up with it all!
My personal definition of a healthy diet includes: high-protein, whole-grain carbs in smaller portions, and lots of veggies--preferably organic and locally grown. I also (when I'm behaving myself) try to keep sugar at a minimum. I don't generally worry about fat. I figure if I'm keeping the carbs and sugar in check, I can eat a little fat when it enhances my food!
That's the case with aioli. Velvety aioli is birthed by whipping egg yolks and oil together, but the result is worth every last calorie. And depending on what you eat it with, can be quite healthy! Here I've paired a silky, savory roasted red pepper aioli with steamed artichoke leaves. You simply dip the fleshy end of the leaves in the aioli and scrape the artichoke "meat" off with your teeth, discarding the rest! This is a low-carb, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegetarian snack that leaves you with a sense of indulgence!
Let's discuss eggs for a moment...
Some people are nervous to try aioli because it contains raw eggs. To put your mind at rest, please consider that nearly all cases of salmonella derive from eggs that are mass produced. Although there are "regulations" on these companies, let's face it, there is too much corruption in our food industry and government to keep them under wraps.
Eggs are naturally sealed with a self-protecting microbial layer that guards them from bacteria. When large eggs producers process their eggs they clean the eggs, therefore washing off the God-intended antibacterial coating. So what happens if the "clean" eggs are compromised in the factory? They have no way to guard themselves from new contaminates!
Buying eggs from a local source is the safest way to go. Most small farms take great pride in how they care for their chickens and eggs. Many local grocers carry eggs laid in their own community.
I like to buy eggs at the farmers market. When you buy "fresh" eggs, meaning unprocessed and never refrigerated, you can actually keep them out on the counter for several weeks because they still contain their protective layer! If you buy fresh eggs and keep them out, you never have to worry about bringing them to room temperature for baking--plus they taste better. Honestly.
In most cases, salmonella comes from the exterior of eggs (of those eggs that have been processed.) It only contaminates the egg when you crack it and the whites touch the shell. So for further protection, wash your eggs thoroughly before cracking. *But makes sure to only wash fresh egg RIGHT before using them--you don't want to mess up that protective shield!
If you buy local eggs and wash them before using, you pretty much eliminate your need to worry!
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli and Steamed Artichokes
3 egg yolks
1 garlic clove
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
1 jarred roasted red pepper, drained
1 cup oil of choice
2-3 large artichokes
Place the egg yolks, garlic, cayenne and slat in the food processor. Puree until smooth, then add the red pepper and puree until smooth again.
While the mixture is pureeing slowly pour in the oil. Puree until the mixture has emulsified to your desired consistency. Taste, then salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and place a steaming basket over it. Cover and bring to a boil.
Trim the artichoke stems off, and trim ¾ inch off the top of the artichoke flower. Pull off any damaged leaves around the base.
Using kitchen shears, trim each point off the outer leaves.
Squeeze lemon juice over the cut edges to reduce browning.
Sprinkle with salt and place in the steam basket. Cover and steam the artichokes for 30-40 minutes, until a center leaf pulls out easily.
Serve the artichokes with the aioli on the side for dipping! Or try it with fingerling potatoes.
*Most aioli recipes only contain 1-2 egg yolks. This recipe calls for 3 to compensate for the moisture in the red pepper.