We dare say there’s no better way to celebrate National Garlic Month than by making that most garlicky of garlic recipes, the intensely flavorful sauce that serves both as marinade and moistening accompaniment—the beloved mojo.
The word mojo is, in fact, a generic term used in many Latin American countries for simple sauces made with copious amounts of garlic and lots of acid. The variations abound: In Venezuela, where there are countless ways to make mojo, recipes often call for peppers, sweet and hot; in Puerto Rico, it’s made with tomatoes and olives; in the Canary Islands, original homeland of the mojo, cilantro is included.
In the United States, there’s perhaps no more well-known mojo than the traditional Cuban one, which is famously pared down in its list of ingredients: garlic, the juice of Seville (or bitter) oranges, cumin, olive oil and a little salt and pepper. (If you can’t find Seville oranges nearby, substitute with fresh lime juice.) As with many recipes that call for so few ingredients, the magic is in the preparation. Sure, you can put the garlic in a food processor or blender, but there’s nothing like mashing it in a pilón, a mortar and pestle. For best results, the mojo should be heated and gently cooked for only a minute or two, being careful not to brown the garlic, which could render the whole concoction bitter.
Cuban mojo is classically served over starches like yuca or malanga, but this potent sauce is good for so much more: marinate chicken or a sturdy fish in it, stir it into cooked brown rice to amp up and brighten its flavor, drizzle over warm bread. Bottom line: It tastes good on everything. Just keep some strong mints nearby.
Classic Cuban mojo
10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime
1/2 cup olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
1. Place the garlic, salt and cumin in a pestle and mortar and pound the garlic until into a coarse paste. Add the lime juice and stir well to combine. Set aside.
2. In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once it is fragrant, add the garlic-lime mix. Add the garlic paste and cook briefly; once it comes to a boil, remove from heat, being careful not to allow garlic to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 3/4 cup. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.