Friday, September 5, 2008

defining dip

Growing up, chips and dip were usually limited to pre-Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner snacking or maybe a Superbowl or two, along with some weenies on toothpicks. It was typically of the French onion variety, meaning pre-made from a container, or powdered soup mix blended with sour cream and maybe some fried onions sprinkled on top. There might have been potato chips on the side, my memory is hazy. But I do remember scraping that bowl clean as if a giant turkey was not mere moments away. Ah, childhood.

Point being—dip isn't fancy fare. It usually involves gooey cheese, or pureed beans, or blue cheese. You can throw fresh herbs in there, or fancify it with some crème fraîche, but it's still just a vehicle for whatever you're dipping with. You rarely find a pretentious dip. Until Gourmet came up with one. A "green relish inspired by the Yemeni cilantro sauce zhoug." Relish, huh? Zhoug, huh? I know a dip when I see one.

Of course, I had to rush home and try it. Actually, it did sound delicious—who wouldn't love a spiced yogurt dip? Creamy and tangy with a complex blend of spices and strong hit of garlic and fiery chiles, this was way better than French onion soup mix. You could eat it straight up with pita chips, as we did, but it would be lovely alongside falafel, or lamb meatballs, or grilled veggies. Dan said he wanted to rub his face in it. Which is really how you a really good dip should make you feel, right?

Spiced yogurt dip
(Serves 8 people)
This recipe, from Gourmet, requires a spice grinder, although I'm sure you could make do with a morter and pestle. I stuck to the ingredients listed, but added a squeeze of lemon at the end. That little bit of acid really brought all of the flavors together and added an extra bit of much-needed brightness.

2 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 cup loosely packed fresh sprigs cilantro
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 (3-inch) fresh serrano chile, including seeds, chopped (I used chile flakes)
2 to 3 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/2 lemon

Lightly crush the cardamom pods with your thumb, then remove the seeds and discard the husks. Toast cardamom, caraway seeds, and peppercorns in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, then cool. Grind spice mixture to a powder in grinder. Transfer spices to a food processor, then add the cilantro garlic, chile, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon oil and purée until smooth (add remaining tablespoon water if necessary). Stir the purée into yogurt, add the lemon juice, and season with salt.

Pita chips
Make extra, you will eat them. If you prefer, skip the seasonings to make plain chips.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)

4 (6-inch) pita loaves with pockets
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (or olive oil)
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Split pitas to make 8 rounds and cut into quarters. Divide the cut pitas between two baking sheets. Or just drizzle the butter (or oil) over the pitas and toss with your hands to coat. Sprinkle with the thyme, sesame seeds, and salt. Bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes total.


Daniel said...

While I was ultimately dissuaded from rubbing my face in it, I do love this stuff.

It brings back fond memories of the Thanksgiving zhougs of my childhood.

Jennifer Henry said...

What IS it with dip in this dip-deprived city? There are EIGHT varieties of hummus at the Food CoOp, but no tsatskiki, smoked trout dip, spinach and pine nut dip, beetroot dip...

I don't miss much (material) about Australia, but I DO miss a selection of at least 12 dips at any regular supermarket.

Lisa said...

I agree, way too much hummus in our neighborhood.

Although I am planning on making some this weekend. Homemade hummus kicks storebought hummus's butt.

Vanessa said...

Mixing that stuff into yogurt is a great idea, because that stuff is NOT dip. Unless you are some kind of masochist or had your tongue removed. The yogurt is a great idea!

Anonymous said...

Yes, those Thanksgiving zhougs were the best and Dan always put his face right in the bowl.

If nothing else, we do have a lot of good fish dip in Florida.


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