Do you remember my post from a year ago, when I wondered whether my kids didn't care for green beans simply because they didn't like how I prepared them (here - check out the uncanny fact that Rebecca was wearing exactly the same dress, though a year ago she could only water, while this time she actually helped harvest)? Back then many of you sent suggestions on how to cook them, and I was surprised to read how many of you like them with butter, because I don't think I've ever served vegetables with butter. In Italian cooking, in fact, vegetables are always dressed with olive oil (though I'm sure there are exceptions I'm not remembering, most likely in the Alpine regions): fried, sauteed, baked, fresh and drizzled with - always with oil.
In our family, ever since Tom started his research and work on true olive oil (here and here), extra virgin olive oil has been the king in the kitchen, reigning on every imaginable dish, even cakes and desserts (I've done lots of successful experiments with olive oil, and found ways to replace butter in most of my baking). Reading those comments a year ago, I knew that my kids - who've been indoctrinated on olive oil their entire lives, can tell good oil from bad, always eat with a bottle of olive oil on the table, and have toast with olive oil as a snack - wouldn't go for green beans and butter. But I thought they might well like them with a condiment that had a texture like butter.
So I came up with a different way to serve green beans, in which olive oil was a main ingredient but not the only one: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise, how simple is that?! To tell the truth, I couldn't remember the last time I had mayonnaise, and my kids never had mayonnaise before: it's one of those dressings I taught them to refuse because I loathe the flabby, pale substance that comes out of jars or (worse!) is squeezed out of plastic dispensers, and invariably has a "best by" date sometime in the next decade. How can anything made with fresh eggs and oil keep for that long? The obvious answer is that store-bought, industrially-made mayo isn't made with fresh ingredients at all, and what's more, is loaded with preservatives. Hence, we've never had store-bought mayo. But in the last week or so, we've all become lovers of homemade mayonnaise.
Which, as I discovered, is very easy to make, and when you use fresh ingredients and quality extra virgin olive oil, you get a thick, creamy dressing with a truly addictive flavor. There are gazillion recipes online, but I consulted my grandmother's recipe book. All you need is 2 yolks, a pinch of salt, juice from half a lemon, and some high-quality extra virgin olive oil (about 1 cup), of course. (The only tool you need is an electric whisk or mixer.) There are only two secrets: all the ingredients must be at room temperature, and you have to add the olive oil and then the lemon juice slowly, drop by drop, while blending all the while, until you get the right, thick texture. Making mayonnaise, in fact, is a culinary work of art that requires a slow pace: if you add the oil too fast, you'll get maionese impazzita, "crazy mayo" as we say in Italian (i.e. the mayonnaise separates). But when you pour the oil very slowly, you get the perfect creamy mayonnaise.
And the results are well worth the patience: a simple, fresh, tasty dip that will even make your kids love steamed green beans ... at least that's what happened in our family! Please let me know how yours reacts to a taste of homemade mayonnaise.