Bourbon Onion Dip

No football-viewing party would be complete without chips and dip. Salsa and guacamole are two of the more popular ones with guests, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook others.

The following recipe, from Maker’s Mark Bourbon, contains ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt and sour cream as well as Vidalia onions, lemon juice and a little olive oil. It would be great with chip and vegetables such as carrots, celery and the like.

Bourbon Onion Dip
½ cup bourbon
4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large sweet onions/Vidalias, peeled, halved, sliced thinly with the grain
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
¾ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup sour cream
Few drops lemon juice
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Crudite vegetables and chips for dipping
In a wide heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the sliced onions and the teaspoon of salt. Saute the onions, stirring often until they begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir and cook the onions until they begin to color, about another 15 minutes. Add ½ cup bourbon to the pan and stir in. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions for another 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have colored and caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan and spread on a plate or baking sheet to cool in the fridge.
Using a food processor or blender, combine the ricotta, yogurt and remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Fold in the sour cream. Once the onions have cooled, rough chop them briefly. Fold into the mixture and season to taste with lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Serve the dip cold with crudite and chips.
Yield: Serves 6 to 10.

EZ CheeZee Spinach Dip

Dips are a prerequisite for anyone who is planning to host a holiday party. In general, dips are good party foods because they don’t need to be hot in order to be served. And for those throwing the party, most dips are quick and easy.

One of my favorites is spinach dip. One reason is that not everyone is a meat eater, so appetizers such as buffalo wings and cocktail wieners are not an option. A quick and easy spinach dip recipe is perfect for a vegetarian appetizer when served with crackers or vegetables.

Here’s a spinach dip recipe that is the epitome of quick and easy. It’s from the Real Women of Philadelphia website (, one of five the blog is promoting for the holiday season.

EZ CheeZee Spinach Dip
½ cup butter
½ cup onion, chopped
10 ounces spinach, thawed from frozen package
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
14 ounces canned artichokes, chopped
Melt butter in skillet.
Add onions and cook till translucent.
Then add each ingredient one at a time and stir well each time.
When all ingredients are mixed well, transfer to serving dish.

Sweet Potato Hummus

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like some sort of chips and dip. When it comes to this old favorite, the number of combinations is nearly endless.

Perhaps my most-liked pairing is tortilla chips and salsa. I have an affinity for this because we always have a good supply of the homemade sauce, ranging from mild to hot-hot.

But coming in a close second is hummus and pita chips. My interest in this was piqued a half-dozen years ago or so.

Hummus, in case you don’t know, is an exotic blend of pureed chickpeas, lemon, sesame tahini, oil and spices, with added flavors such as roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, scallion and dill.

I’m not the only one who likes hummus. These days, it’s readily available commercially in specialty stores and supermarkets. The most devoted advocates of hummus make their own.

Back in 2006, we had a summer reporting  intern from Hampton (Va.) University at the Herald who was one of those people who loved hummus. Eba Hamid was a native of the Sudan who grew up in Mississippi. Eba told me then that she grew up on hummus, which is popular in her homeland. She added that her father made a pretty mean version, using fresh chickpeas (some call them garbanzo beans).

Today, I thought about Eba, now a night producer at the New York Times, after Therese emailed me a hummus recipe that featured sweet potatoes. Therese said she thought I’d like to see it. I took this as a hint to make it. I did.. And I’m sure glad. It tastes wonderful.

I plan on using it with crackers or chips, but it could double as a spread for crusty bread, a dip for veggies such as carrots and celery or a topping for sandwiches, broiled fish or chicken or baked potatoes.

For the health-conscious, hummus is a bargain. It contains no saturated fat, no cholesterol or sugars and is high in protein and fiber.

Sweet Potato Hummus
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 15-ounce chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 garlic clove, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Whole-wheat pita and crudites such as red pepper and broccoli
Set a steamer basket in a large pot. Fill with enough water to come just below basket; bring to a boil. Add potatoes; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.
Combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, oil, cumin, and garlic in the food processor. Puree, about 1 minute; thin with water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and let cool; refrigerate, in an airtight container, up to 1 week. Serve with pita and crudites.
Yield About 4 cups.

Holy Guacamole

What would a Super Bowl party be without chips and dip? Take it from me, the game can almost be a sidelight when there is good food on the menu.

One of the most popular dips served at the big game is made with guacamole. It is estimated by the Hass Avocado Board that more than 71 million pounds of the purple-black Hass avocados will be consumed during the Super Bowl — enough to cover Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis “end zone to end zone in more than 27.5 feet of avocados.”

And although one medium avocado contains a lot of fat — 30 grams — it’s mostly the monounsaturated kind thought to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and boost good (HDL) cholesterol.

Here’s a popular version of a guacamole dip recipe that makes about 2½ cups, and it can be spicy if you like.

Holy Guacamole
4 avocados
½ cup chopped white onion
2 diced Roma tomatoes
Juice of 1 large lime
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 seeded and chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper
1 finely minced clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt (or more if desired)
¼  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons chili powder such as ancho (optional)
In a large bowl, lightly mash flesh of avocados. Leave it chunky. Add chopped white onion, diced Roma tomatoes, juice of lime, chopped cilantro leaves, chopped pepper, minced clove garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Stir together lightly.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Press plastic wrap directly on the dip and cover with another lid. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip

I can’t wait host another brunch or take part in another brunch. That’s because I’ve found a very interesting recipe to share. The recipe is called Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip, which comes from “The Flavors of the Florida Keys” (Atlantic Monthly, $27.50) by Linda Gassenheimer.

Gassenheimer is the Miami Herald’s Dinner in Minutes columnist who I’ve followed over the years in my newspaper’s association with Knight Ridder Newspapers and now McClatchy Newspapers. The book is a follow-up to her “Keys Cuisine.”

Gassenheimer has taken an interest in the Keys as a culinary destination, and in the process has reached out to the chefs and beach-shack cooks for many recipes in her column who have made it so. Seafood stars in a lot of the book’s recipes, including the crab-artichoke dip that caught my eye. I’m a big fan of dips at parties or get-togethers.

In this holiday season, I’m sure a lot of entertainers will find the recipe to their liking, too.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip
¾ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and diced
¾ lightly sauted spinach, well-drained and chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ pound fresh picked stone crab meat (from about 2 pounds stone crabs in the shell)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack and Parmesan. Gently stir in the crab meat, breaking up any large chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow, oven-proof dish, and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano over. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through and slightly bubbly. Serve with water crackers.
Yield: Serves 8.
Note: Lump crab meat or imitation crab can substitute for stone crab in this rich and creamy dip.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 300 calories, 77 percent of calories from fat, 25.3 grams fat (6.8 grams saturated, 5.9 grams monounsaturated), 59.5 milligrams cholesterol, 14.6 grams protein, 2.8 grams carbohydrates, 0.4 grams fiber, 727 milligrams sodium.

Grapes of Wrap

One of the fun things about potlucks is that they can be unpredictable.

Besides the usual items that you might find at one such as meats, cheeses, chips, dips and assorted raw vegetables, there can be soups, sloppy Joes, casseroles and any number of desserts.

We’re having a potluck Wednesday, and I’m bringing something that probably isn’t found on many menus — stuffed grape leaves. The reason for the potluck is that it’s the last day of one of my co-workers, and she requested that I make the grape leaves.

I just happened to have some grape leaves frozen in water in my freezer. I always freeze some of the leaves (about 50 or so per container) so we can have the dish that traces its roots to the eastern Mediterranean over the winter.

I make my stuffed grape leaves by mixing about a pound or so of ground meat (bison), about a cup of brown or white rice, a clove or two of minced garlic, a little flaked onion, some dried mint and cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste.

Then, I place a bit of the mixture on each leaf, roll them up and stick them atop some flat beef bones that are on the bottom of my cast-iron Dutch oven. Next, I mix a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes and a small can of tomato sauce and pour it around the outside of the Dutch oven, being careful not to put any over the stuffed grape leaves.

Finally, I put a plate on top of the grape leaves (this holds the grape leaves in place while they cook) and cover on the pot. I then cook this on low to medium heat for about 2 to 3 hours.

While the grape leaves are cooking, I mix a bowl of tzatziki, a Greek sauce made of cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and a little dill.

Following you will find the tzatziki recipe I like, along with another version of stuffed grape leaves.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
50 grape leaves
4 lamb bones or 6 chicken wings
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 3 lemons
Stuffing (recipe follows)
Soak fresh grape leaves in hot water for 15 minutes to soften. Remove from water, squeeze out excess moisture and remove stems. Place 1 tablespoon of filling across each leaf. Fold bottom of leaf up, fold both sides in, and roll away from you.
Place lamb bones on the bottom of a saucepan. Arrange stuffed leaves in layers on the top of the bones. Alternate the direction of the layers.
Sprinkle salt over stuffed leaves. Press leaves down by placing an inverted plate on top of the leaves. (This also will hold them in place while they cook.)
Add water to reach the top of the dish. Cover and simmer on a low flame for 40 minutes or until tender.
For the last 10 minutes of cooking, remove the plate and add the juice of three lemons. Serve with lemon wedges and plain yogurt.
2/3 cup long grain rice, rinsed in water
1 pound ground lamb or ground chuck
3 teaspoons butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine stuffing ingredients and mix well.

16 ounces (2 cups) of thick Greek yogurt
4 to 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ cup of diced or grated cucumber
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Prepare all ingredients in advance. Combine oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl. Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil. Add the garlic, according to taste, and the cucumber. Stir until evenly distributed. Garnish with a bit of green and serve well chilled.
Yield: About 2½ cups.

Spinach Dip

Next Wednesday is the last day of work for my friend and co-worker Lynn Weber. Lynn, a photo toner at the Herald, is heading off to Bottineau, N.D., where she’ll be general manager of the local newspaper. We’ll miss Lynn a lot.

One of the things we like to do in our department when someone leaves is to have a potluck. Already, several people have stepped forward to say what they’re going to bring.

One item I’m hoping someone will make is spinach dip. Lynn’s sister, Lori, who also works at the Herald as a toner, makes a great one. But she’s already signed up to make sloppy Joes.

I’ve eaten my share of spinach dips and rarely have found one that isn’t up to snuff. One of my favorites is the one made by the Blue Moose in East Grand Forks. And my friend, Darrel Koehler, says the one at the Bronze Boot in Grand Forks isn’t too shabby, either.

Here are a couple of spinach dip recipes, the first of which is one that I’ve tried and liked. The second is adapted from a recipe by Guy Fieri,

Knorr Spinach Dip
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (do not use fresh)
1½ cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 4-ounce package Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
Loaf of pumpernickel bread
Squeeze spinach until dry. In medium bowl, stir together spinach, sour cream and soup mix. Add finely chopped water chestnuts and green onions. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Cut slice from top of round loaf of pumpernickel bread, hollow out loaf to leave shell to contain dip. Use bread removed from shell and top slice to cut into bite-size pieces. Butter inside of bread shell, fill loaf with dip and place on platter and surround with bread pieces and variety of raw vegetables.

Artichoke Spinach Dip with Pesto
14 ounces canned or frozen artichoke hearts, drained, diced
9 ounces frozen creamed spinach, thawed
½ cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons pesto
½ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven or gas grill to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients well.
If using an oven, transfer mixture to a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes, until heated through. For a grill, use a 9-by-9-inch foil baking pan and cover with foil. Place on grill and let cook for 15 minutes, turning the pan every 5 minutes to keep the heat even. Serve with chips.