Benedictine and its kin

No, not Benedictine the liqueur, Benedictine the dip / spread. From NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday on 7/13/13, “A Summery Spread That’s As Cool As A Cucumber” by Erica Peterson:

Cream cheese, cucumber juice and a touch of onion. That may sound like an unlikely combination, but Benedictine is a Kentucky favorite, and Gwynne Potts, a self-proclaimed aficionado, says it’s delicious.

“The best thing to eat Benedictine on is just white bread,” Potts says. “No special bread; it only takes away from the Benedictine.”

Potts, who grew up in Louisville, Ky., has been enjoying the creamy combo for six decades.

The story from Wikipedia:

Benedictine or Benedictine Spread is a condiment made with cucumbers and cream cheese. It is used to make cucumber sandwiches and was invented around the turn of the 20th century by Jennie Carter Benedict, a caterer and restaurateur in Louisville, Kentucky. Benedict opened her restaurant in 1893. It was there that she invented and originally served benedictine. Originally used for sandwiches, benedictine has in recent years been used as a dip for chips and filling for potatoes.

A photo and a recipe:

(#1)

This spread can be used as a dip or a sandwich & canape ingredient. It was made popular at Louisville’s Benedict’s restaurant earlier in this century.
Ingredients:

1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
dash green food coloring (optional)

Preparation: Pare, grate, and drain cucumber. Combine with remaining ingredients in food processor. Serve as is or as a sandwich or canape spread. Thin with sour cream to make a dip for vegetables.

Benedictine is a foodstuff that belongs to a conceptual category I’ll call DIP/SPREAD, for which there is no standard label in English; I’ll use the invented label dipspread. Dipspreads are thick enough to function as spreads:

A spread is a food that is literally spread, generally with a knife, onto bread, crackers, or other food products. Spreads are added to food to provide flavor and texture, and are an integral part of the dish, i.e. they should be distinguished from condiments, which are optional additions. Spreads should also be distinguished from dips, which generally are not applied to food via a knife or similar utensil, such as salsa.

Common spreads include dairy spreads (e.g. cheeses, creams, and butters; though the term butter is broadly applied to many spreads), plant spreads (e.g. jams, jellies, peanut butter, hummus and baba ghanoush), margarines, yeast spreads (e.g. Vegemite and Marmite) and meat spreads (e.g. pâté, fleischbutter, cretons). (Wikipedia link)

But dipspreads are also thin enough (or can easily be thinned a bit) to function as dips:

A dip or dipping sauce is a common condiment for many types of food. Dips are used to add flavor or texture to a food, such as pita bread, dumplings, crackers, cut-up raw vegetables, seafood, cubed pieces of meat and cheese, potato chips, tortilla chips, and falafel. Unlike other sauces, instead of applying the sauce to the food, the food is typically put, dipped, or added into the dipping sauce (hence the name). Dips are commonly used for finger foods, appetizers, and other easily held foods. Thick dips based on sour cream, crème fraiche, milk, yogurt, mayonnaise, soft cheese, or beans are a staple of American hors d’oeuvres and are thinner than spreads which can be thinned to make dips. Alton Brown suggests that a dip is defined based on its ability to “maintain contact with its transport mechanism over three feet of white carpet”.

Dip is a very widespread food. Forms of dip are eaten all over the world. (Wikipedia link)

Some dips listed by Wikipedia:

baba ghanoush; blue cheese dressing, used as a dip for raw vegetables or buffalo wings; chili con queso; clam dip; crab dip (cream cheese and lump crabmeat); fondue; French onion dip / California dip (sour cream, minced onions, onion salt); guacamole; hummus; shrimp dip; salsa; spinach dip; taramosalata; tzatziki

(A number of these I would classify as dipspreads.)

Dipspreads are also thick enough to serve as fillings, particularly for sandwiches, and many are substantial enough to serve as small appetizers, side dishes, or salads. On the other hand, many are thin enough (or can easily be made so) to serve as dressings or sauces.

On to the dipspread tzatziki, Benedictine’s Greek cousin:

Tzatziki … is a Greek appetizer, also used as a sauce for gyros. Tzatziki is made of strained yogurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and sometimes lemon juice, and dill or mint or parsley. Tzatziki is always served cold. While in Greece and Turkey the dish is usually served as an accompaniment, in other places tzatziki is often served with bread (loaf or pita) as part of the first course of a meal. (Wikipedia link)

(#2)

Like Benedictine, pimento cheese is another Southern dipspread:

Pimento cheese is a common food preparation in the Southern United States, a spread or relish made with cheese. It is affectionately known as The caviar of The South. The basic recipe has few ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese or processed cheese (such as Velveeta or American cheese), mayonnaise, pimentos (also spelled “pimientos”), salt and pepper, blended to either a smooth or chunky paste. Regional ingredients include cream cheese, Louisiana-style hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, jalapeños, onions, garlic, and dill pickles.

Pimento cheese can be served as a spread on crackers or celery, scooped onto corn chips or tortilla chips, mixed in with mashed yolks for deviled eggs, added to grits, or slathered over hamburgers or hotdogs. Pimento cheese can also be used to replace the sliced cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich.

A pimento cheese sandwich may be a quick and inexpensive lunch for children, or it may be served as a cocktail finger food (with crusts trimmed, garnished with watercress, and cut into triangles) or rolled up and cut into pinwheels. Pimento cheese sandwiches are a signature item at The Masters Tournament. (Wikipedia link)

(#3)

Finally, a cheesy dipspread from eastern Europe: Liptauer.

Liptauer is a spicy cheese spread made with sheep milk cheese, goat’s milk cheese, quark cheese or cottage cheese. It is a part of the regional cuisine of Slovakia (as Šmirkás, a form of the German Schmierkäse for cheese spread), Hungary (as Liptói túró or Körözött), Austria, Serbia (as Urnebes salata, “chaos salad”), Croatia and Italy (especially in the province of Trieste).

The name is derived from the German name Liptau for the region of Liptov (Hungarian: Liptó) in northern Slovakia, a former county in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Liptauer cheese spread can be made of any soft cheeses. Cottage cheese, cream cheese, quark cheese, soft goat or sheep cheese are all suitable for this purpose. About one third of “traditional” Liptauer consists of bryndza, a sheep milk cheese. The cheese is mixed with local sour cream, butter, margarine or beer and finely chopped onions. Spices are added, like ground paprika, fresh parsley, usually whole caraway seeds (or ground caraway). Other recipes involve prepared mustard, Worcestershire sauce, capers or anchovy paste. Consumed on open sandwich, toast, crackers, bagels or as a filling in cold dishes like filled tomatoes, peppers, or hard boiled eggs. (Wikipedia link)

(#4)

I’ll take up some more spreads, dips, and dipspreads in a future posting.

3 Responses to “Benedictine and its kin”

  1. Ellen Says:

    I thought of raita first, though I suppose tzatziki’s a little closer….

  2. tarator | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] … In Greece, a similar meal is known as tzatziki. Tzatziki usually contains olive oil, parsley and mint in addition to the ingredients listed above. [on tzatziki, see "Benedictine and its kin"] […]

  3. More dipspreads | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] return to the dipspread, first posted about here, where I […]

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