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Authors: Rick Rodgers

Dip It! (10 page)

BOOK: Dip It!
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what to dip
Tortilla chips, store-bought
or homemade
(page 176)
4 ripe Hass avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
One 1-ounce envelope ranch-style dressing and dip mix
TOPPINGS
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar
One 2¼-ounce can chopped ripe olives, drained
¼ cup drained and chopped pickled jalapeños
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1.
Mash the avocados and lime juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Season lightly with salt (the next layer is salty and will season the avocados). Spread the avocados in a thick layer on a round or oval platter.

2.
Stir the sour cream, mayonnaise, and dressing mix in a small bowl, blending well. Spread over the avocados, being sure to cover them completely. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. (The dip can be prepared to this point up to 5 hours ahead.)

3.
Just before serving, arrange a ring of the tomatoes around the edge of the dip. Make progressively smaller rings of the scallions, cheese, olives, and jalapeños, on the dip, ending with the cilantro in the center. Serve immediately.

Vegging Out

H
ere’s a statistic I’d like to know: How many “crudités and dip” are served every day? This happy combination seems right for every occasion, from an after-work celebration to a fancy cocktail party. But while the assortment of vegetables may stay the same, the choice of dip sets the mood.

Most of the recipes in this chapter feature the flavors
and textures of roasted, pureed, and chopped vegetables. One of the advantages of vegetable-based dips is that most of them don’t contain ingredients (such as meat and eggs) that restrict the length of their “safe” serving time to two hours. Other recipes, such as Herb-Garlic Vinaigrette, Tahini-Carrot Dip, and Miso-Ginger Dip are perfect for serving with vegetables. Of course, the selection isn’t limited to the recipes in this chapter—many favorite dips are crossovers into this category.

Vegetables for Dipping

Crudités,
by definition, means raw vegetables. However, some vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans) benefit from a quick boiling to brighten their color and soften their crunch. If you are parcooking a variety of vegetables, you don’t need to boil a pan of fresh water every time. Start with the vegetables with the mildest flavor (carrots) and work your way up to the more strongly flavored (broccoli and cauliflower). Certain other vegetables, such as potatoes, should be thoroughly cooked. In either case, wrap the vegetables in paper towels (to absorb excess moisture and keep them crisp) and store in the refrigerator in ziptight plastic bags.

When you’re in a hurry and want to reduce the time needed to cut up vegetables, stop by the salad bar in your market to see what’s displayed that could be dipped.

To arrange the crudités, place vegetables with contrasting colors and shapes next to each other to increase eye appeal.

Here are some serving suggestions for the most popular vegetables for dipping.

FRESH BABY ARTICHOKES
These are a must for aïoli and bagna cauda. To trim baby artichokes, snap back all of the tough outer leaves until you reach the cone of pale, tender leaves. Using a small sharp knife, cut off the tip of the cone, about ½ inch from the top. Trim off all of the dark green skin from the base and the stem, if attached. Rub the cut surfaces all over with a lemon half, and drop into a bowl of water to which the juice of the other half of the lemon has been added.

To cook the artichokes, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high head. Drain the artichokes, add to the water, and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry. Wrap in paper towels and store in a ziptight bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Before serving, cut each artichoke in half lengthwise, if desired.

Thawed frozen artichoke hearts make great dippers. Rinse the artichokes well in a colander under cold water, drain, and pat completely dry with paper towels. Serve either artichoke with toothpicks to hold them during dipping.

ASPARAGUS
Bend each asparagus spear to break off the thick end. Cook in a large saucepan of lightly salted water just until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus; do not overcook. Drain, rinse well under cold water, and drain again. Spread out the spears on paper towels and pat completely dry. Wrap in
fresh paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

BROCCOLI
Cut broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. If you wish, peel the stems and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices (no need to peel the stems of the florets, as the skin is more tender). Cook in a large saucepan of lightly salted water just until the color brightens, about 1 minute; do not overcook. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain well, shaking the colander to remove as much water as possible. Spread on paper towels and pat completely dry. Wrap in fresh paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

CARROTS
Peel carrots and cut into 1-inch-thick sticks. Or use whole “baby-cut” carrots. Carrot sticks can be served raw, but baby carrots sometimes look tired. If necessary, cook baby carrots in a large saucepan of lightly salted water just until the color brightens, about 1 minute. Rinse well under cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and pat completely dry with paper towels. In either case, wrap the carrots in paper towels and refrigerate in a ziptight plastic bag for up to 1 day.

CAULIFLOWER
See Broccoli.

CELERY
Some supermarkets now carry celery sticks for dipping, but I prefer to cut my own. Celery sticks need no special preparation. To keep crisp, wrap in moistened paper towels and refrigerate in a ziptight plastic bag for up to 1 day.

CHERRY TOMATOES
The classic cherry tomato is best for dipping; try to find tomatoes that still have the stem attached to use as a handle. The new sweet varieties, sometimes called grape tomatoes, are tasty but a little too small to serve with dips. Rinse the tomatoes, drain, and pat dry. Refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 3 days.

CUCUMBERS
Seedless (English) cucumbers are the best variety for dipping, as their skin is edible. If using regular cucumbers, peel off the waxy skin. Cucumbers are easiest to handle if cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds. A mandoline or plastic vegetable slicer will give uniform slices. Or cut the cucumber into 2- to 3-inch long, ½-inch-thick sticks. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

FENNEL BULB
Cut off the fronds and the stalks, if still attached. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise in half, and cut out the thick core from each half in a wedge. Cut lengthwise into ½-inch-thick slices, then cut them to separate the layers into sticks. If you wish, trim the fennel stalks and cut them lengthwise into sticks. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

GREEN BEANS
Trim the ends. Cook in a large saucepan of lightly salted water just until the color brightens, about 1 minute; do not overcook. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pat dry with paper towels. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

MUSHROOMS
Some cooks advise against rinsing mushrooms, but I like to be sure to remove all of the grit without
resorting to brushing them clean one by one. Just take care not to soak the mushrooms in the water, and you’ll be fine. Small white button mushrooms with the stems attached are best for dipping, but you can cut washed large mushrooms into halves or quarters if you wish. Place the mushrooms in a colander and rinse quickly under cold running water, agitating the mushrooms so they all are rinsed by the stream. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap in fresh paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight bags for up to 8 hours.

POTATOES
Look for marble-sized tiny new potatoes at specialty markets. Scrub them well, but don’t peel them. Cook in a large saucepan of lightly salted water until tender when pierced with the tip of a small knife, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking. Cool completely. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags.

RADISHES
Use bunched radishes for the freshest flavor and most attractive appearance. Scrub well and trim, leaving a small amount of the stem attached to act as a handle. To crisp, refrigerate in a bowl of ice water for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.

SNAP PEAS AND SNOW PEAS
Trim the peas. Cook in a large saucepan of lightly salted water just until the color brightens, about 30 seconds; do not overcook. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pat completely dry on paper towels. Wrap in fresh paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 8 hours (these don’t keep well for long).

BELL PEPPERS
Use red, yellow, and/or green peppers. Slice off the top and bottom; slice down one side, and remove the ribs and seeds. Cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick strips. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

ZUCCHINI AND YELLOW SQUASH
Scrub well under cold water to remove surface grit. Slice (use a mandoline or plastic vegetable slicer if you have one) into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Or cut into ½-inch-thick sticks. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in ziptight plastic bags for up to 1 day.

Roasted Ratatouille

makes about 6 cups

MAKE-AHEAD
: The ratatouille can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.

R
atatouille, a mélange of vegetables in an herbed tomato sauce, is one of the most versatile vegetable stews in the French cuisine repertoire; it also makes a wonderful dip. The traditional Niçoise cooking method involves lots of sautéing of the eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and other vegetables—tedious and not especially necessary to the ratatouilles success. Some time ago, as a timesaving measure, I began roasting the most obvious ingredients, a process that not only cut down on the work, but also enhances the flavor.

what to dip
Fresh baguette slices •
Bruschetta (page 182) •
Crostini (page 180) •
Flatbread crisps
1 large eggplant (2 ¼ pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 large red bell peppers, cored, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, and coarsely chopped
BOOK: Dip It!
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