Summer is a time to enjoy the out of doors. That means sun, beaches, picnics, and food. Many of us are unsure and concerned about how long foods made with mayonnaise can sit out before they “go bad” and result in a round of food poisoning for our guests. Some of us may also prefer a healthier alternative that saves a few calories, too.
The origins of mayonnaise are unclear and while our word reflects a French influence, Spain also lays claim to the original recipe. The basic ingredients are oil and egg yolks, whisked until fluffy. There are many variations to the basic recipe. Different oils can be used (some healthier than others), and sometimes whole eggs are used, too. Some recipes may add vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, herbs, spices, or call for garlic-infused oils.
“Commercially produced mayonnaise is a lot tougher than most of us think. From the standpoint of safety, you don’t even have to refrigerate an opened jar of mayonnaise because it contains enough vinegar and/or lemon juice to provide an environment hostile to the development of harmful bacteria. Manufacturers universally tell you to refrigerate mayonnaise once opened, though, because it helps preserve the flavor. Warmth causes mayonnaise to break down after a while, and it gets to the point where it just tastes oily.
Homemade mayonnaise, of course, is a different matter. With its use of raw eggs, it is highly perishable and should be consumed immediately or refrigerated and finished off very shortly.”
Why worry? Why not keep everyone safe with an alternative to mayonnaise.
The first thing that comes to mind for most people is yogurt. It can be made from no-fat, low-fat, or regular milk. Plain yogurt has no added sugar and the Greek type is especially creamy and has plenty of protein. It works well as a spread or in salads such as chicken or tuna. It breaks down when heated so it is really only suitable for cold foods.
Cottage cheese is another alternative. It should be drained in cheese cloth over night to remove to water. It, too, comes in no-fat, low-fat, or regular and contains a protein. You can use it in food pretty much the same way yogurt—in salads or as a spread.
Hummus, made from ground chickpeas and sesame, comes prepared in many flavors and is relatively easy to make from scratch. It is good as a spread. It can be used hot or cold. There is not a lot of oil in hummus so baked things tend to be a bit dry, so don’t count on keeping things moist with hummus.
Hummus from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, 1992
About 6 servings, 10 minutes to prepare after chickpeas are cooked
A tangy and delicious chick pea puree from the Middle East, Hummus is a perfect dip or sandwich spread. Preparation is quick if you use a food processor.
Note: This recipe calls for 3 cups cooked chick peas. You can soak and cook dry ones, but canned work just as well.
2-3 medium cloves garlic, sliced
A large handful of parsley
2 healthy scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cups cooked chick peas (2 15 ½ oz. cans, rinsed and well drained0
6 Tbsp. tahini
6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ to 1 tsp. salt
Optional: cayenne and a little cumin, to taste
Place garlic, parsley, and scallion in a food processor or blender, and mince.
Add chick peas, tahini, lemon juice and salt, and puree to thick paste. (You can also do the mincing and mashing by hand. The Hummus will have a coarser texture, but that can be nice, too.)
Season to taste, if desired with cayenne and cumin (and correct the salt, if necessary). Transfer to a tightly lidded container and chill.
Prepared horseradish is the grated root with vinegar added to trap the flavor. It can be used as a spread or added to any of the above to give a different flavor—very pungent.
Another alternative to mayonnaise is something called Aioli, which is from the Mediterranean area. The real version is actually mayonnaise but a lighter version can be used as a spread, topping, or a sauce. On the internet, Jeanne Jones posted August 2, 2011 this lighter version:
1 cup silken, firm tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until satin-smooth. Store tightly covered, in the refrigerator for at least one day before serving. Makes 1 cup.
The last alternative is one the Dr. Oz talks about and is quite simple. Take equal part of avocado and Greek yogurt and mash together. The food processor works well for combining these ingredients. To vary the taste, try adding garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper, or perhaps a bit of cinnamon for sweetness.
Try any one of these and have peace of mind knowing that you have used a healthier alternative and reduced the risk of spoilage.