More dipspreads

(Mostly about food.)

A return to the dipspread, first posted about here, where I wrote:

Dipspreads are thick enough to function as spreads … But dipspreads are also thin enough (or can easily be thinned a bit) to function as dips … 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.

In that posting: Benedictine, tzatziki, pimento cheese, Liptauer. And pictured, but not written up, in this posting: hummus, tapenade. And in a later posting: tarator, raita.

Now to add to the inventory.

A few words on hummus and tapenade.

Hummus in Wikipedia:

Hummus … is a Middle Eastern and Arabic food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Today, it is popular throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, Morocco, and in Middle Eastern cuisine around the globe.

Tapenade in Wikipedia:

Tapenade … is a Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas … It is a popular food in the south of France, where it is generally eaten as an hors d’œuvre, spread on bread. Sometimes it is also used to stuff poultry for a main course.

Olive-based tapenades with anchovies and/or vinegar are ubiquitous in Italian cuisine and are documented in ancient Roman cookbooks dating back thousands of years before the appearance of the French word tapenade, or indeed the French language itself. The earliest known tapenade recipe, Olivarum conditurae, appears in Columella’s De re Rustica, written in the first century AD.

Tapenade is also a popular condiment in Cajun cuisine. It is a critical component in the New Orleans sandwich the Muffaletta.

Tapenade’s base ingredient is olive. The olives (most commonly black olive) and capers are finely chopped, crushed, or blended. Olive oil is then added until the mixture becomes a paste. Tapenade is often flavored differently in varying regions with other ingredients such as garlic, herbs, anchovies, lemon juice, or brandy.

Tapenade can be used as an appetizer, served with crackers, crusty bread or crudités. It can also be used as a condiment.

Next, two dipspreads that are not widely known, but are favorites of mine: spinach and blue cheese, and glop. For these I will give recipes.

Spinach and blue cheese. For this, easy-going instructions.

1. There are three components of this dish: spinach, blue cheese plus cream cheese, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can work on them in tandem, or in any sequence that suits your schedule.

2. The spinach. Boil a couple of packages of frozen chopped spinach in a very little bit of salted water just enough to cook the spinach through. (I hate to say this, but starting from fresh spinach, washing and trimming it, then chopping it, and boiling it very quickly does not produce a notably better, or even distinguishable, product here. Do not, however, use canned spinach, however much you love Popeye; the result is unappetizing.) Dump the steamed spinach into a sieve, and use the back of a big spoon to press out as much water as possible.

3. The cheeses. Cream together a pile of softened cream cheese and a similar pile of crumbled blue cheese (elegant and expensive varieties aren’t necessary, but stay away from anything you wouldn’t want to eat on a cracker; bitterness is an ugly ugly property in blue cheese, and some cheap blue cheeses are appallingly bitter).

4. The lemon juice. Squeeze two or three lemons.

5. Mix the three components together and glom it all up. You can use a spoon, or if you enjoy the feel and don’t have any paper cuts or whatever on your hands that the lemon juice would make into little points of screaming pain, you can just knead it all happily with your hands.

You can adjust the thickness of the dish by adding cream, sour cream, or yoghurt.

6. Put it in a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then it can be served as a side dish – a kind of cold salad – or used as a dip (with pita bread or vegetable sticks) or spread on bread.

[Added 1/25/18. From Kim Darnell, offering proportions: 3 – 1 – 1 – 3:

3 parts spinach (e.g., 48 oz. for a whole lot of dipspread), 1 part cream cheese (e.g., 16 oz.), 1 part blue cheese (e.g., 16 oz.), 3 parts lemon juice (e.g., juice of 3 lemons).]

Glop. This appetizer is a soc.motss favorite, initially from the folks on the motss-food mailing list from Los Angeles, and enjoyed at gatherings across the world. It originally appeared in Jean Anderson’s The Food of Portugal under the title Garlic Paté (Pasta de Alho). (Thanks to Arne Adolfsen and Josh Simon.) For 1 3/4 cups:


2 large heads of garlic (4-5 oz. in all)
1 lb. cold ripe Brie, trimmed of white rind, then cut into 1-in. cubes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon hot water


Preheat the oven to low (300 F.). Bundle the whole, unpeeled heads of garlic in a double thickness of aluminum foil, then twist each loose end into a gooseneck, sealing in the garlic. Place in the oven and roast for an hour; remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Place the Brie in the top of a double boiler, set over hot water, and let soften 8 to 10 minutes (do not allow the water to boil or the cheese may string and separate). Meanwhile, peel the garlic, clove by clove [the peels should slip off], and drop into an electric blender cup or a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade; add the pepper, olive oil, and water and buzz for 30 seconds nonstop to puree. Scrape down the sides of the blender cup or work bowl and buzz 30 seconds longer. Now add the softened cheese and incorporate, using 8 to 10 quick on-offs of the motor. Transfer to a small bowl and, if the mixture seems slightly lumpy, whisk hard by hand (further machine-beating at this point may make the paté rubbery). Store airtight in the refrigerator and serve with melba toast or toasted baguettes. Let the paté come to room temperature before serving.

Now a dipspread that is not widely known but is featured at Gordon Biersch restaurants, including the one where I regularly have lunch:

Blue Crab and Artichoke Dip. From the restaurant’s site:

Two coastal staples meet in this delicious starter dip. Chunks of blue crab from the Atlantic seaboard and bright, tangy California artichoke hearts smothered in our housemade cheese sauce, topped with parmesan and served with toasted crostinis.


Then taramosalata. From Wikipedia:

Taramosalata (Greek: ταραμοσαλάτα, from taramas, from Turkish: tarama “meze made from fish roe” + salata “salad”) is a Greek and Turkish meze. The spelling taramasalata is also used and is the only spelling given in most dictionaries.

Taramosalata is traditionally made from taramas, the salted and cured roe of the cod or the carp, though blends based on other forms of fish roe have become more common. The roe is mixed with either bread crumbs or mashed potato, and lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. It is usually eaten as a dip, with bread and/or raw vegetables. The colour can vary from creamy beige to pink, depending on the type of roe used. Mass-produced taramosalata is often a bright pink due to the addition of food colouring.

A plate of taramosalata ganished with cucumber, olives, and tomato:


Now to some familiar dipspreads: guacamole, refried bean dip, and cheese dips.

Guacamole. From Wikipedia:

Guacamole … is an avocado-based sauce that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) with sea salt. Some recipes call for tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, chili, yogurt and/or additional seasonings.


(Cheesy) refried bean dip. A recipe from the net, yielding 5 cups:


1 lb dry pinto beans
2 quarts (8 cups) water
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp lard (or 2 additional Tbsp butter)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (plus more if desired)
1/2 cup shredded Monterray Jack Cheese (or an additional 1/2 cup Cheddar)


Soak beans in a bowl or pot overnight in 2 quarts cold water (I just soak them in the slow cooker pot so I don’t have to clean two pots).

Drain and rinse beans after soaking. Place beans in a slow cooker, cover with 2 quarts hot water. Cover with a lid and cook on high for 4 1/2 hours or low for 9 hours (my slow cooker lids fits snugly but if yours doesn’t just keep an eye on the water level to make sure they stay covered).

Once cooked (they should be fully tender when pierced with a fork), laddle out 1 3/4 cups of the water and reserve. Strain remaining water by pouring beans into a colander. Place beans, reserved 1 3/4 cups water (if you want thicker beans start with 1 cup then work your way up from there, I just found 1 3/4 cups was a good consistency for bean dip), butter, lard, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and pepper in a blender. Cover blender with lid and blend on low speed for about 1 minute or until well blended. Pour mixture into a large bowl, stir in shredded cheeses. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.


(Baked) onion cheese dip. Another recfpe from the net, yielding 3 cups:


2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded pepper Jack cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chopped sweet onions, divided
Assorted crackers


In a food processor, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, thyme and 1 cup onions; cover and process until blended. Stir in remaining onions.

Transfer to a greased 3-cup baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with crackers.


Another cheese dip. This one is billed as a sauce, but works fine as a dip or spread. An enthusiastic description from the net:

If there’s one thing we learned in our Cheese Sauce Tasting a couple weeks back, it’s that jarred cheese sauce is, well, not so great. In fact, the runaway winner was classic Texas style queso—that’s a can of Ro*Tel® tomatoes, mixed with a block of Velveeta cheese.

This is not news, by the way. Frustrated at the lack of great ready-made cheese sauce, I even spent time experimenting in the Food Lab kitchen to deliver a cheese sauce that tastes like real cheese to my wife.

But there’s another easy way to add flavor to your standard Velveeta block: mix-ins. With enough flavorful mix-ins, even the blandest of cheese sauces can pick up enough flavor to stand as the center of your next party’s snack platter. [some of his suggestions: spinah and abrtichoke, chorizo and black bean, leek and musnhroom, roasted garlic and red pepper, chicken chile verde]

The basic method is simple. Take a block of Velveeta cheese (or if you want to go all out, make your own real cheese sauce), heat it up in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water until it’s completely melted and smooth (this can take quite a while, so give yourself a good half hour before you want the sauce to be ready), dump in your extra ingredients, then serve it with your scooping vehicle of choice.


4 Responses to “More dipspreads”

  1. Small dishes | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « More dipspreads […]

  2. Victor Steinbok Says:

    A couple more interesting dipspreads from divergent repertoires–a couple more Tex-Mex and a couple Mediterranean ones. The first pair seems to originate from the 1970s obsession with “Mexican” food, resulting in some heavy, cheesy blends–queso and prairie fire. Somewhat ironically named queso is basically a microwaved mix of processed cheese, chopped lightly spicy peppers (usually pickled canned jalapenos) and canned chopped tomatoes, giving the mass a characteristic Christmas-colored speckled look. These are often joined by butter-sauteed onions to make for an even heavier product (pure 1970s Americana). Prairie Fire is a similar concoction where tomatoes are replaced with canned refried beans and garlic (the texture is achieved by addition of the pickle juice from the peppers).

    The Mediterranean offerings include the ubiquitous baba ghanoush (in a variety of spellings and an even wider variety of ingredients added to roasted blended eggplant). Some versions are the equivalent of hummus with chick peas replaced with egg plant and garlic, other (especially commercial) versions simply blend softened roasted eggplant with mayonnaise (making it non-vegan), with plenty of other variants available not just regionally, but varying from family to family. In Israel, chopped roasted eggplant with mayonnaise is a common basic salad that no one would mistake for baba ghanoush, but things are a bit more primitive in the US.

    The other three items are a bit more exotic and considerably less familiar to the general public. Mixing bread crumbs with pomegranate juice (or “molasses”), lemon juice and hot peppers (traditionally Aleppo) results in muhammara–usually a bright or dark red mixture similar in texture to taramosalata. The other main ingredients are garlic, olive oil, walnuts and roasted red peppers, leading some authors to label it as a “red-pepper dip”, while others skip the last two ingredients (spices usually include cumin, but there are many variations). The Balkan version of the dip lacks pomegranate juice and bread crumbs, while using a combination of roasted vegetables, keying on roasted sweet and hot peppers, but often including blended eggplant (thus putting it somewhere between Muhammara and Baba ghanoush). The pepper or pepper/eggplant spread is Ajvar (often labeled either hot or sweet). There is a version of it from Northern Caucasus that is much drier and made only with hot peppers which makes it more of condiment than a spread (normally referred to by Russian-speaking population as “adzhika”, which seems to be related to the Balkan name).

    Finally, a completely unrelated dip that involves a heavy concoction from butter, olive oil, garlic and preserved anchovies, usually known under its Piedmontese name of bagna cauda. This one is somewhat reminiscent of non-cheese versions of fondue (e.g., one where chunks of beef tenderloin are dipped into an oil bath tableside). The dish is extremely traditional in parts of Italy while being completely unknown in other parts of the country. It’s virtually unheard of in the US because it’s very regional, pungent and with calorie count that would bust most weekly allowances. I suppose, unlike the rest of the listings, it’s really not much of a spread and is almost purely a dip (hence a comparison to fondue, although the hot artichoke-cheese/crab dip is similar).

    A final concoction (a family of concoctions, really) usually passes under the Russian name of “ikra” (caviar) but has absolutely no relation to its fishy origin. The class of Russian “zakuski” under that name consist of cooked (roasted or poached) vegetables processed and blended with raw and/or cooked onion and garlic. The common vegetable bases are summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, although carrot and beet version may also be seen occasionally (with all but mushrooms also blended with parsley or coriander). Oddly enough, I’ve never encountered a roasted bell-pepper version that would be very similar to Ajvar (or it’s North African cousin that mixes roasted peppers, chilies, raw garlic, olive oil and lemon juice with occasional variations of raw onion and/or roasted tomatoes and/or chopped coriander). Obviously, all of the above also include a healthy doze of salt and pepper.

  3. RIPE OLIVE DIP | Zlater Family CookBook Says:

    […] More dipspreads ( […]

  4. Victor Says:

    Refried-bean dip seems to have a sidekick — Prairie Fire. It’s a step up in complexity from refried beans, but is largely the same — basically, refried beans with cheese. Like refried beans and artichoke dips, it only functions as a deep when heated.

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