A Wintry Le Grand Aioli

Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com

We begin circling the emails on Monday, unless someone is particularly excited about a recipe, then they may start the Thursday before. They usually start with one person saying, “I want to make x recipe. I’ll need you to bring x, y, and z.” Or sometimes it’s as simple as a clean-out-the-fridge-salad where we all bring whatever lingering vegetables, beans, herbs, nuts, etc. we have hanging out in our fridge. We’re always so pleasantly surprised about how delicious our randomly crafted meals are.

Really, it’s not about the food though. It never is. Our every other Wednesday night dinner is about friendship, life, consistency, and community. We are brought to the table because of the food (and a bottle of wine) and as we empty our plates we’re being filled in a much deeper way than food could ever do on its own.

For the past five years we’ve been meeting together every other Wednesday. The group has changed a bit over the years. At one point it was nine women, right now we are five. In that time we’ve walked through elation, depression, marriage highs and marriage lows, parenting struggles, job promotions, new homes, brain tumors, marathons, death, and new life. We’ve cried uncontrollably but we have laughed more. Each week there is hardship and there is joy. There is sorrow and there is delight. We never know what our time will have for us be we do know who will be there.

I’ve wanted to talk about this group here for a long time. Each time our meals come together I want to write about the beauty of a community sourced meal. I want to write about the importance of the table and how much I love using food as the reason and sometimes the excuse to gather but what I care about more than the food is what happens at the table. Dinners with these girls always illustrates that point beautifully. It’s never the point of the food to outshine the purpose and yet it is so often the reason why we gather. I mention on the video that it’s the food and the wine that bring us to the table but it’s what happens at the table where life happens. The longer I live and the more meals I cook I grow deeper and deeper into this truth.

Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com

It’s not easy for us to get together. Between us we have 11 small children. We have work and lots of sniffly noses to wipe, and lunches to pack, and calendars to try and make sense of and yet we gather. Every week there are sacrifices that have to be made in order for us to come together at the table but we are committed to one another.

After five years together, I can’t imagine doing life without these women. I am braver, stronger, and a better person because of what each of them has added to my days. They have held my hand in my darkest moments and celebrated with me in my brightest. I’m so grateful for the food that brings us to the table but most of all I’m just thrilled that these women meet me there every other Wednesday.


A Wintry Le Grand Aioli from Not Without Salt on Vimeo.

Wintery Le Grand Aioli // NotWithoutSalt.com

A Wintry Le Grand Aioli

Le Grand Aioli is a classic Provençal dish whose star is the golden hued aioli. Typically there is fish to dip in as well along with an array of vegetables. We’ve winterized ours by roasting an assortment of seasonal vegetables as well as mushrooms. We also boiled a few eggs and roasted a chicken to add a bit more heft. Feel free to use whatever you’d like in your grand aioli.


Roasted or Rotisserie Chicken (your favorite recipe or store bought is great here)

For each guest

     1/2 lb of roasted vegetables per person, such as carrots, beets, cauliflower, fennel, squash, chanterelle mushrooms

          2-3 oz of green beans per person, blanched and shocked in ice water to preserve bright color

          1 soft boiled egg

Nicoise olives

A favorite bread, such as walnut

Serve with Caper & Preserved lemon aioli, recipe follows…



Makes about 1 cup, serves 6-8


1 large or 2 small garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons lemon juice

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup  neutral oil (such as grapeseed, canola, vegetable)

2 tablespoons capers

1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon


Mince garlic very fine. Add salt directly to the garlic. Use the flat part of the knife to press it against the board seven to ten times until a fine paste forms. Add this to a medium bowl along with the mustard, lemon juice and egg yolk. Whisk to combine.  


Add the oil in a very slow stream, whisking continuously. Once an emulsion begins to form start to pour in a steady stream of oil. After you add all the oil it should look like very loose mayonnaise. Stir in the capers and preserved lemon. Taste and add more salt if needed.


Serve alongside roasted chicken and roasted vegetables, eggs and olives.


Serve with Mirassou Pinot Noir.


This post was kindly sponsored by Mirassou Winery and they are offering a special coupon to help you #ShareTheSun with family and friends throughout the season.


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Peppermint White Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle

Cookie Trifle // Notwithoutsalt.com

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Rainier Rilke


It’s been a bit of week in our world hasn’t it? I really don’t mean that to sound as trite as it does, the truth is I don’t know what to say. So I leave part of that beautiful poem up there because the words, “Just keep going. No feeling is final.”, for me is like a gentle push forward and right now, I need that.

Two days ago, with my three kids in the car I began to pull out of our parking spot before I stopped the car and set the gear back to park because whatever grumblings I heard coming from the back seat put me over the edge.

“Listen.” I said to them feeling that surge you get when you’re about to drop a parenting bomb and just hoping that for two minutes they could actually hear my words.

“Everyday there is much to grumble about. Each day is filled with pain, suffering and heartache. But each day there is also joy. Sometimes we have to fight hard to see that joy but that fight is worth battling and it’s our choice who wins; joy or grief. Your feelings are valid and you should feel them as you need to and then, when you are done feeling crappy, please choose joy. And I will try and do the same.”

Beauty and terror. Everyday. We can’t protect ourselves from the terror but we also don’t need it to be our focus.

Cookie Trifle // Notwithoutsalt.com Cookie Trifle // Notwithoutsalt.com

I’ll have many more of these sorts of conversations, with myself and with my children. In my own head it’s been daily as I’m so easily crippled by the suffering overwhelming this world. And honestly, it’s hard to then come here and simply talk about food. But right now my beauty, in part, is the food coming from my kitchen and the people I get to share it with.

So I keep going because no feeling is final and I think keeping going is brave and quite frankly the only way to go. And when we are strong enough to see the beauty we actually do the things that put more beauty into this world.

Last week Gabe and I attended a fundraiser for First Aid Arts. Our friends, along with the help of many people, created a First Aid kit for the soul. The kit seeks to bring healing through art (drawing, music, and dance) as a way of helping people who have been affected with trauma. That’s what it looks like when terror turns into beauty.

I’ve mentioned them here before as we have been partners with First Aid Arts using one of my art forms – food – to give back. Specifically cookies. Each time you purchase our cookie mix a portion of that money goes directly to First Aid Arts.

To celebrate the release of our holiday cookie flavor – White Chocolate Peppermint with Vanilla Salt!! I made us a trifle. A cookie trifle! (Worthy of an excess of exclamation marks).

I’ve made a similar trifle with the Salted Chocolate Chip variety as well but this one is so seasonally appropriate I’d say.

Layers of crisp cookies turn soft under a blanket of vanilla bean flecked custard. The custard is softly reminiscent of butterscotch. Dark brown sugar can be thanked for that. It’s soft, cool and makes friends with the cookies in a delightful way – softening them and encouraging them to mingle. Whip cream hugs the layers and lightens(not actually as it is indeed cream but rather it just feels light) the whole lot. A added hit of peppermint extract to the whipped cream would reinforce the peppermint flavor but as is it’s subtle and that’s nice too.

A trifle is just the sort of dessert you need for the holidays as most of the magic is done while you’re sleeping. Make it the night before and tuck it into bed. You may even have a few cookies to spare to leave out for Santa or to eat in the middle of the night feverishly wrapping the last of the presents.

Cookie Trifle // Notwithoutsalt.com

Peppermint White Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle

1 package White Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Mix (or you can use this recipe

2 cups whole milk

4 cups heavy cream, divided

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

6 egg yolks

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

1/4 cup crushed candy canes


Bake the cookies according the package directions. Set aside (and try to resist eating them. Okay, eating one is fine).

Make the custard.

In a medium saucepan combine the whole milk and 1 cup of the heavy cream. Add the seeds of the vanilla bean along with the bean itself. Bring the whole mixture to a gentle simmer.

While that heats up whisk together the egg yolks along with the cornstarch, brown sugar and salt until it has lightened in color just a bit.

Carefully pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture while whisking. Return everything back to the saucepan and gently simmer for a couple minutes, until thickened.

Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a clean bowl then cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until completely chilled. The custard will thicken more as it cools.

Whip the remaining 3 cups heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract. Feel free to add a touch of peppermint extract here if you want to reinforce the peppermint flavor.

Assemble the trifle.

I like to start with a layer of cookies and I make the cookie layers (of which there will be two) sort of thick so that even in the overnight refrigeration and the custard soaks into the cookies there still will be a bit of texture. So use just about half or so of the cookies (you can reserve some for just eating or to decorate the top or do three layers of cookies) and break them up into large chunks. Add them to the bottom of the trifle dish then top with half of the custard. Add a layer of whipped cream on top of the custard. Repeat the layering to finish with whipped cream on top.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours but overnight really is ideal.

Just before serving top the trifle with the crushed candy canes.


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