Monday, July 9, 2012

Worldly Dips

Fresh salads, cold food, and no-cooking meals.
In summertime, these become necessary phrases for everybody.

But what happens when those leftovers need a little pick me up?
I'll show you three dips that will immediately spice up your day and make cold summer meals come alive with flavor. (Corny, but true.)

These dips from around the world and around the kitchen bring levels of intensity, layers of flavor, and a fresh pop to any cold summer meal spread.

Mexican Multiple Chili Dip
Mint Cardamom Yogurt Dip
Cilantro Lime Nopales Dip

I read them twice too. Get your ingredients ready.

First up is this fantastic dried chili dip. Adapted from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, this dip is a wonderful accompaniment to cold meat, with tacos, used as a marinade or as a hot sauce (add extra hot chilies for hot sauce.)

Mexican Multiple Chili Dip

2 Cascabel Chilies
2 Chilies de Arbol
2 Meco Chilies
1 Guajillo Chili
4 Tepin Chilies
2 Roma Tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
1 Clove Garlic roughly chopped
1/2 cup Water
Salt to taste

From top left, counter-clockwise:
Chilies de Arbol, Guajillo Chili, Tepin Chilies, Meco Chilies, Cascabel Chilies

Fire roast the tomatoes or broil for 8 - 10 minutes. The skins should char and the tomato should be soft and cooked through. Toast the chilies in a hot dry skillet, turning constantly to avoid burning. When they cool, take out the stems and crumble, leaving the seeds and ribs.
Put tomatoes with their skins, water, salt and garlic in the bottom of a blender, adding the chilies on top. Blend until relatively smooth, you'll want to see some of the chili skins and seeds throughout. Serve at room temperature.

A bit about the chilies here. Feel free to substitute different dried chilies if you don't have some of these available. Keep in mind that spicy or smokey chilies are used here, so stay away from sweet fruity chilies like ancho. You may use canned chipotles if other smoked chilies are unavailable, but skip toasting them. The smokey flavor is essential to this dip. The Tepin Chilies and Chilies de Arbol are included for their heat, and the Guajillo and Cascabel chilies are here for their light fruity flavor and low heat index. I also only used two of the tomatoes, but feel free to use more if you find the sauce too spicy.

Mint Cardamom Yogurt Dip

This dip is based on many mint-yogurt dip recipes available online, but I added green cardamom for it's bright lemony flavor. I wanted to use mint because I have so much growing in my backyard and fresh herbs are the rule for summer spreads.

about 8 ounces Greek style yogurt
1 packed cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup cucumber chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon water
3 green cardamom pods
1 small clove garlic, finely diced
Salt to taste

In a hot, dry skillet, toast the green cardamom pods until fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt. Add the mint, oil, 1/4 of the cucumber and water to a blender, pulsing until relatively smooth. Leave some of the mint rough if you like. You may want to add a little of the yogurt to help get everything moving. Combine the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated into the yogurt. Salt enhances the flavors, but be careful not to add too much. This should be a chunky, minty cooling spread or dip, fantastic alongside heavily spiced foods.

This can be served immediately, but improves drastically after a day in the fridge.

Cilantro-Lime Nopales Dip


1 Nopale cactus paddle, trimmed and cleaned of spikes and nubs
Juice of one large lime
1 clove garlic, rough chopped
1/2 cup chopped sweet or white onion
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
A generous handful of fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Fire roast your cactus paddle over a flame on your stove, until lightly charred and soft. Chop roughly and add to a blender, along with all the other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
This is a fresh tasting dip whose main flavors are cilantro and lime. The cactus paddle adds volume and texture to this dip. Fresh Nopales paddles have gooey, okra-like characteristics that is desired in many stews and tacos. When blended with the other ingredients in this dip, the cactus' viscosity keeps everything together without feeling like you're eating slime.

 Serve all three together for a trio of complimenting flavors. If the chilies are too hot, have some cooling minty-yogurt. Have some tangy cilantro lime dip for a balance that will keep you coming back for more.

Make a spread of meats, breads, and vegetables for an easy, exciting break from plain leftovers. Cold fried foods are really great with these dips.

You can thank me later.

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