Dish and Dash

As I carefully wrapped my platter of chilled vegetables with attending dip this past weekend and prepared to dash out the door, it occurred to me that perhaps this simple combination was worth blogging about.  I grabbed my camera, took a couple of quick shots―plastic wrap still attached―and kept running.

All Wrapped Up

All Wrapped Up

Granted, crudités and bean dip is not usually reason to get wildly excited, but if you are like me, you are probably faced with the quandary of coming up with quick party trays and dishes, too.  I have used this one more times than I can recall.

During my catering days Tuscan Bean Dip was always a popular choice.  It can be made ahead and left to chill well-covered in the fridge until needed. The vegetable and dip combination make the perfect launching point for an expanded Italian platter, piled high with olives, pickled peppers, salamis and/or cheeses.

No time to assemble a tray of vegetables?  Folks love spreading Tuscan Bean Dip on crackers, smearing it on rustic sliced bread (grilled or not), and as a dipper with bread sticks.   Should there be any left over, try it slathered in a sandwich instead of mayo…

Since we are working with basic, earthy ingredients, the success of Tuscan Bean Dip depends upon the use of the best quality ingredients afforded.

Tuscan Bean Dip

Tuscan Bean Dip

I prefer real cannellini beans, or white kidney beans, because they are large, creamy, and have a rich, rounded flavor that blends well with all sorts of herbs and seasonings.  They carry their own magic.

For flavorings, on this occasion I opted for fresh basil, Italian parsley, green onions, and of course, a nice hit of fresh garlic.  (Rosemary is a real favorite, if used judiciously.)  Good quality extra virgin olive oil is a key addition to elevating this beyond ‘just another bean dip.’ Fresh lemon juice, its counterpoint, is also essential.  You will know there’s a party going on when its brightness amps up all the simple, rustic ingredients.

Turns out, it was a warm early evening with folks scattered about seeking the shade of sprawling oak trees.  The assorted veggies sprinkled with Italian olives and teamed with Tuscan Bean Dip drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, were a welcome complement to tomato bruschetta, frittata, yummy cheeses, and lots more.

Vegetable Platter with Tuscan Bean Dip 

Ingredients

2 lbs      Assorted vegetables: broccoli, snow peas, endive, celery, carrots (regular or baby) radishes, mushrooms, assorted peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, baby tomatoes

Tuscan Bean Dip

2         15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp    fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp    fresh Italian parsley chopped
2 tbsp    green onion, chopped
1-2       cloves garlic, crushed or minced well
2 tbsp    extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp    fresh lemon juice, or to taste
½ tsp     salt
1/8 tsp  freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. For bean dip:  drain and rinse the beans.
  2. In a food processor combine all and mix until blended and beans are slightly mashed, but still retain texture. Cover and chill if making ahead.  Yield:  2 -3 cups.
  3. For vegetables, trim and cut into finger-sized pieces.  Can be prepped ahead at this point.
  4. To assemble tray, begin at one ‘corner”, and mound vegetables in separate groupings, layering on top of preceding veggies while moving toward center.  Reserve space for the dip and continue filling in the platter. Garnish with radicchio and herbs.  Serves 10 approx.
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The Case for Feta-Lemon Dip… and the Artichoke

Call it co-incidence, but twice recently very similar ideas for Feta-Lemon Dip have caught my attention.  I paused the first time and made a note to self, and kept going.  The second time, I discovered it in Paul Lowe’s charming book Eat & Make and decided it was certainly worth trying.

Perhaps it has something to do with my recent fascination with IKEA and the Swedish lifestyle that attracted me to his book.  Paul, or Sweet Paul, who grew up in neighboring Norway, has the same earthy approach and straight forward food sensibilities.  Plus, he includes a bunch of complementary DIY projects that look like fun and add a nice homey touch.

At the market I have been eyeing artichokes longingly, but have passed due to the $3 per each sticker shock.  Nevertheless, the other day they looked so enticing, I buckled and bought one, with the feta dip in mind.  I wondered how well they would get along.   Artichokes are funny.  Prickly as they are, they prefer first position and do not easily share the spotlight.

Feta artichoke 2The case seemed to have merit:  feta and artichokes are neighbors, too.  Was there enough acid in the dip – or too much – to stand up to the artichoke and bridge the potential feta gap?

I have played with Sweet Paul’s recipe a bit.  For most occasions I suspect Paul’s recipe is excellent as is, but for my situation I have made some adjustments.

I added a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt to assist in the creaminess and cut back slightly on the six tablespoons of olive oil.  I also reduced the lemon zest substantially, incorporated green onion, and threw in a sprinkling of dill weed.

It works for me!  

Feta and Lemon Dip

Inspired by:  Eat & Make, Paul Lowe, aka Sweet Paul

Ingredients

  • 7 oz feta cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, (Paul includes 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp Greek yogurt, (optional, my addition)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, ( Paul uses 6 Tbsp)
  • 1 green onion, chopped (optional)
  • ½ tsp. dried dill weed (optional)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Crudités, chips, toasts, or pita crisps for serving

Directions 

l.   Place feta, lemon zest, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, garlic and olive in blender and whirl to combine, but still slightly chunky using small spatula to assist if necessary.  Adjust seasoning, add green onion, dill if using, and lemon juice to taste.  Whirl again to lightly blend.

2.  Spoon into serving bowl, drizzle with a little lemon oil and sprinkle with a pinch of pepper flakes and some lemon zest.  Serve with crudités, chips toasts or pita crisps.  Serves 4