As you likely know by now, I have become somewhat obsessed with sunflower seed spread. We eat it all the time, and I’ve been playing around quite a bit with it to see just how far I can vary and stretch this wonderful (and, yeah, cheap) little refrigerator staple. It started as a cheese substitute for me, and has progressed to a hummus alternative, a pizza topping (oh yes, I like it better than any cheez I’ve tried), the base for vegan pesto, and NOW it’s standing in for the condiment I miss the most, my beloved mayonnaise.
Ahhhh mayonnaise. Big Sis and I both have an old love of mayonnaise (she may not remember, but she had mayo sandwiches as a kid; I favored ketchup sandwiches – both offerings I now imagine were the result of a very tired Mom). There is something about the creamy fatness and the slightly sweet salt of mayonnaise that still works for me in theory, although the shiny fat thing sort of turns me off now. I have missed the condiment’s place on my sandwiches, veggie burgers, various summer salads… you get the drift. It makes me look fondly onto those culinary classes when I followed the advice of the French chefs with abandon. They were right about a lot of things, and homemade mayonnaise was one of them. Times have changed for me, however, and while a little mayo now and again will offend neither my sensibilities nor my overall eating philosophy, I really did want an alternative for a few dishes. Enter my beloved sunflower seed.
As I was already convinced that this super spread might be the solution to my problem, I started by just making a batch of the spread. And then the simple addition that changed my condiment world… marinated artichoke hearts. Yes, artichoke. I grant you that this takes the spread from one that is cheap to one that is, well less than cheap, this addition made for an indulgent concoction perfect for the uses I had in mind. I added six artichoke hearts to my batch, about a teaspoon of dried dill (sadly my fresh finished a long time ago), a little extra lemon juice, and an additional clove of garlic. The liquid in the artichokes made the spread much thinner (in a good way). I then turned on a the food processor and just let it go. I left it on for a while during dinner prep, honestly I have no idea how long. The spread got smoother and smoother.
When it was done (which means I didn’t want the noise of the food processor any more), I had something that reminded me (in flavor) of an herbed aioli and oh do I have a fairly long list of things one can do with an herbed aioli. You could add a little olive oil and get more of the fatty creaminess, but as I was happy with both the texture and flavor, I opted to leave it alone. We had it on our veggie burgers and… the real treat… we dipped our roasted potatoes in it and I was transported to a park in Amsterdam where I hovered over a warm and greasy paper cone of french fries that came with a side of garlic aioli. Stupendous, delish, and all the result of a series of experiments prompted by a visit from a black bear. Life’s funny, eh?