There is a new condiment that has New York food pros improvising like mad. It's an off-the-wall take on mayonnaise. David Leite, of Leite's Culinaria and author of The New Portuguese Table, is the man who introduced them to this marvel.   

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Explain this mayonnaise.

David Leite

David Leite

David Leite: It's an interesting thing. It's not a real mayonnaise, it's air bunny mayonnaise.

LRK: Air bunny?

DL: What I mean by that is there's no egg in it. It's actually an emulsion of oil and milk, and that's what makes the luscious, light base that you can add many things to. What's happened is a lot of people who have egg allergies have latched onto this and made it their own. It's quite an interesting condiment.

LRK: You've just avoided the concerns over contamination in eggs completely.

DL: One hundred percent.

LRK: But a milk mayonnaise -- how do you do this?

DL: To make this air bunny mayonnaise -- and I want to be very clear that it's not a true mayonnaise -- you take very cold milk and you add some lemon juice to it, a little bit of garlic and some white pepper. Then you use a hand blender or a mini-chop; you can't do this in a food processor or a very large blender because the amount, the volume, is too small. Then you start just whizzing in some oil -- I use vegetable oil -- very slowly in the beginning, just like you do with mayonnaise.

LRK: A few drops at a time?

DL: Exactly. Then you have a thin thread, which is called a fio in Portuguese. Then it gets a little bit thicker, what you're pouring in, and then all of a sudden this mixture, which is very liquidy, just magically turns luscious and thick and light and whipped. It's the texture of a light, homemade mayonnaise.

LRK: Is this from Portugal?

DL: It is from Portugal, that's where I got it. I was actually on the hunt for different recipes for my cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, and we were going through the Alentejo region, which is the middle swath of the country. There was a restaurant we went to called A Bolota, and there was on the table this incredible green olive dip. Before anyone had the chance, I ate all of it. I just thought it was fantastic.

I asked the chef, Ilda Vinagre, "What is it?" She explained what it was, and then she said it's made with a milk mayonnaise. I thought, "Oh, that's a mistake, milk mayonnaise." After dinner she took me in the kitchen and, of course, she was making volumes and volumes of this milk mayonnaise and showing me exactly how to do it. That's where I got it.

Of course as these things happen, I brought it back to America and I tried to make it. I failed time after time after time. Finally, I asked her what the problem was. It was because I was making it in the food processor. She said for the small volume I was making, it couldn't be done. When I used my hand blender or my mini-chop, boom, there it was.

LRK: Because the container you're actually doing it in is smaller.

DL: Exactly. I use a 2-cup, glass, measuring cup, and that's what I make it in. It works every single time.

Milk Mayonnaise

Milk mayonnaise (Nuno Correia)

LRK: Does the oil have to be cold?

DL: No, not at all. For whatever reason, the milk works better when it's cold. The lemon juice, a little bit of garlic and white pepper are all mixed together, and then the vegetable oil is poured in, and a little bit of salt in the end.

LRK: To make this fabulous olive dip that you scarfed up, how do you do that?

DL: You have chopped-up green olives, like Manzanilla olives or Spanish olives. You take that and then once you're done, there's also cilantro -- that you would put in the base too, a bunch of cilantro and some anchovy. Then you make the base, you'll stir in the olives and then you serve it right then and there.

You have to be careful if you're going to do that -- don't make it ahead of time by putting the olives into the base. The brine of the olives coagulates the base too much. I just mix it in at the last minute.

LRK: Can you use other oils like olive oil, walnut oil or canola oil?

David Leite: Absolutely. People have written me and told me they've used safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, canola oil and olive oil. Now I don't like too much olive oil, I prefer just a little bit if I'm going to use it, because it gets too strong for me.

People have used all kinds of olive oil, and really all kinds of milk. I've heard people say they've made it with skim milk, 2 percent milk, soy milk and almond milk. I've not made any of them, but I've heard great success from these people.

I think what's most interesting to me is how they're flavoring them. That's what blows my mind. For instance, David Lebovitz out there in Paris used chervil and made a chervil milk mayonnaise. I've heard of a garlic milk mayonnaise, like an aioli. People have used ginger, rosemary, tarragon and Sriracha. Someone put in balsamic vinegar and someone made a Dijon version. I get all these emails -- someone is using it for potato salad, someone is using it as a spread for bread, and someone is using it as a topping for steak, chicken or fish.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.