My favorite way to workout in the wintertime is to hop on the elliptical when I get home from work and catch up on favorite shows that I’ve missed. The TV takes my mind off the chore at hand, makes the time fly and the calories burn. I’ve been known to watch an entire movie (fluffy romantic comedies need only apply) while exercising. Monday night, I had a hard time picking something to watch, and eventually settled on an episode of Rick Bayless’ PBS show, Mexico One Plate at a Time.
As usual, I decided that I needed to make whatever Rick was cooking and hopped off the machine to grab paper and pen to make a shopping list. Crazy, right?! So, my workout pace might have slowed a bit, as I scribbled few notes about this recipe. But if you catch this particular episode, you’ll understand why I was so captivated by a simple sauce of garlic and olive oil. Make this, and I think you’ll agree that your kitchen will forever be changed.
Rick explained that this simple sauce is called mojo de ajo which literally means “bath of garlic,” and it is exactly that. 2 cups of smashed garlic cloves. 3 cups of olive oil. A sprinkle of salt and a dash of red pepper flake. Lime juice. Bake. That’s the whole recipe. Simple, right?!
This is one of those dishes that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I’ve made roasted garlic olive oil before, and it’s wonderful. But the simple additions of red pepper flakes and lime juice sends this dish over the edge into culinary heaven. You add the lime juice partway through the slow-roasting, and the citrus flavor is softened by a few moments in the oven. When the mixture is done relaxing in the oven, you can spoon off about two cups of the pure garlic oil to save in a separate jar for salad dressings, roasting potatoes, and just about anything you want to make – I added a spoon of garlic oil to a bowl of homemade refried beans, and we found the bottom of that bowl FAST. Then, scoop the other two cups of garlic oil goodness into a jar…this is your mojo de ajo. Use a spoonful or two of mojo in pasta, slathered over chicken before roasting, added to a simple tomato sauce – I think this sauce would be a welcome addition to just about any dish. I can’t wait to roast some potatoes with it.
For my first meal with the mojo, I settled on a simple shrimp scampi pasta (much as Rick did on his show). It highlighted the garlic oil perfectly and we found ourselves fishing through the bowl of pasta to spear a sliver of smooth, mellow garlic with every forkful. All I can say is that you need to make this. Now.
From Rick Bayless6 heads garlic , about 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
3 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove (a fist against the side of a knife is what I do) to release the clove from its papery skin.
- Stir together the garlic, oil, pepper flakes and salt in an 8×8-inch baking pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45 to 55 minutes.
- Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown. (If you’re using the larger quantity of oil, ladle off 1-2 cups—no garlic cloves—and store it in the fridge for use in salad dressing or sautéing.)
- Using an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to enjoy some deliciousness.
Mojo Shrimp Pasta
6 oz dried (gluten-free) pasta, whatever shape you like best
6 oz shrimp – peeled, and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 T garlic oil
3 T mojo with garlic chunks
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese and cilantro to garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. When you’ve got about 5 minutes left in pasta cooking time, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T of the garlic oil and red pepper flakes, then saute the shrimp for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta when it is done cooking, reserving 1/2 cup of water. Pour the drained pasta and reserved cooking oil into the pan with the shrimp. Add the 3T mojo de ajo, and gently toss to coat everything in the beautiful garlic oil. Grate in some parmesan cheese, and serve. Garnish with cilantro.
682 cal per serving, 290cal from fat, 34g fat, 170mg cholesterol, 380mg potassium, 380mg sodium, 67g carbs, 3g fiber, 28g protein