Top nosh

Peerless dips for Super Bowl snacking.

By Adam Ried
February 6, 2011

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Instant soup mix stirred into sour cream may have passed for dip in the old days, but, really, wouldn’t you do better with fresh ingredients and interesting seasonings? Blue cheese dip is a perennial favorite, and adding some roasted winter squash gives it a gently sweet, earthy backbone. Using thick Greek yogurt as the base for spinach dip (as opposed to sour cream) makes it flavorful and comparatively lean. With fresh clams, crunchy radishes, and lime, Salvadoran-style salsa is a far cry from standard clam dip. And, finally, bacon, lime, and pickled jalapenos give a boost to black bean dip.

Spicy black bean and bacon dip

Makes about 3 cups

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled, with 1 tablespoon rendered fat reserved

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers plus 1 tablespoon packing juice

1 29-ounce can black beans, drained but not rinsed,

½ cup beans reserved

1½ tablespoons tomato paste

Salt and black pepper

3 scallions, thinly sliced

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the bacon fat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute; set aside off heat.

In a measuring cup, combine the lime juice, jalapeno packing juice, and 3 tablespoons hot water. In a food processor, puree all the beans except for the reserved ½ cup, the onion mixture, tomato paste, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste, about 30 seconds; scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a flexible spatula. With the feed tube open and the motor running, add the lime-jalapeno mixture in a slow, steady stream; process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping as necessary. Add the reserved beans and pulse just to combine. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the pickled jalapenos, the scallions, and the bacon. Cover and let stand at room temperature for flavors to develop, about 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary, and serve.

Roasted squash and blue cheese dip

Makes about 2 cups

Both celery sticks and potato chips are excellent vehicles for this dip.

¾ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons heavy cream

¾ cup mashed roasted butternut squash

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 generous cup)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, squash, and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in the blue cheese, scallions, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 30 minutes. Rest the dip at room temperature for a few minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

Spinach dip

Makes about 3 cups

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium shallots, minced (about ¾ cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled, and wrung out in a clean dish towel

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

¾ cup mayonnaise

½ cup packed parsley leaves

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

¾ cup grated Parmesan

Salt and black pepper

½ cup very finely chopped toasted walnuts, optional

¾ cup very finely chopped red bell pepper, optional

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Set aside off heat.

In a food processor, process the shallot mixture, spinach, yogurt, mayonnaise, parsley, lemon zest, hot pepper sauce, Parmesan, 1½ teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste to a fine puree, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 30 minutes. Rest the dip at room temperature for a few minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the walnuts or bell pepper, if using, stir to mix, and serve.

Salvadoran-style clam salsa

Makes about 2½ cups

This salsa is adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows (William Morrow, 1993). Crisp pita chips and saltine crackers are the ideal dippers here.

2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed (about 2¼ pounds)

8 large radishes, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup quartered grape tomatoes

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and black pepper

Hot pepper sauce, to taste

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring ¼ cup water and the clams to a boil. Cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the clams open and release their juices, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the clams (discard any clams that do not open), cool, then remove and roughly chop the meats; discard the shells.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, stir the clams, radishes, onion, garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt, black pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve at once.

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  • February 6, 2011 cover
  • Feb. 6 cover
Read more from this issue.

Dukkah, a different kind of dip

Dukkah is an Egyptian mix of nuts and spices used as both a seasoning and a dip. Street vendors there sell small paper cones with their own unique blends, along with oil and pita for dipping. Here’s a standard recipe (to which I add 2 tablespoons of dried mint and ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika or crushed red pepper flakes): Toast ½ cup hazelnuts, ¼ cup sesame seeds, 3 tablespoons coriander seeds, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, and pulse in food processor until mix resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1½ teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper, and stir to mix.