Dips are one of those dishes that are good for any type of gathering any time of year.
Not too long ago, I attended a baby shower in Nashville for my niece, who only recently gave birth to my first great-nephew, Brown Houston Pewitt. The shower fare was delicious, but one of my favorites on the table was the hummus served with crispy pita triangles. When I commented on how good it was, one of the hostesses said, "We love their hummus."
So I figured it was from some restaurant or caterer in Nashville and almost hesitated to ask where it came from, thinking I'd never have such good, garlicky, flavorful hummus again. But when she told me it was from Taziki's, I was thrilled since we have one in Chattanooga at 432 Market St. Now I know where I'll go when I need some dip and don't have time to make it myself.
I've even been to parties that served nothing but dips. It was similar to a cookie swap, but we were asked to bring our favorite dip and copies of the recipe, and the hostess provided small containers for people to take samples of their favorites home, along with the recipe. A great party for those of us who love dips.
Here are a couple of favorite dips from readers:
• Mary Burton has a dip she makes year round and says it's the best ever. "It's one of those dips that's very impressive," she says. "It seems complex, but it's not at all." She found the recipe on the side of a can of lump crab: Combine a 6-ounce can of lump crabmeat, drained, with a 13.75-ounce can of artichoke hearts, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a greased casserole dish, sprinkle it with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour or until heated through. Serve the dip with crackers, tortilla chips or baguettes.
• Karen Fogo's favorite dip is Buffalo Chicken Dip, a recipe she got from her friend, Allison Sepulveda. Combine an 8-ounce package of cream cheese, 1 cup of ranch dressing, 1/2 cup of Texas Pete's Buffalo wing sauce and a can of well-drained chicken. Heat it up in a slow cooker or on the stove and serve it with crackers or tortilla chips. It's so good it's finished in no time, she says. Using fat-free cream cheese and light ranch dressing turned out just as good as the higher-fat-and-calories versions, she adds.
In my opinion, if someone calls you a dip, take it as a compliment because, to me, there's nothing better than a good dip. Here's an excellent one I made using a recipe from Cooks Country magazine. French Onion Dip sounds like nothing out of the ordinary, but when you make it from scratch, it's taken to a new level. Give it a try and let me know if you agree.
You can make this up to 24 hours in advance.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons water, divided
21/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until onions are golden, about 10 more minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until water is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons water and cook until onions are caramelized and water is evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Transfer onions to medium bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
Add sour cream and mayonnaise to onions and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve with chips. Makes about 2 cups.
Note: I added a sprinkle of garlic powder to the dip and it boosted the flavor even more.
On a final note, don't forget it's not too late to enter your favorite recipe for the Pillsbury Bake-Off's Simple Sweets and Starters category. Recipe examples include cookies, bars, pies, tarts, bite-size appetizers, tartlets, pinwheels, puffs and bruschetta or focaccia. You have until May 9 to enter. For complete rules and other details, log onto www.BakeOff.com.