Spicy, tangy, sweet, hot, cold or creamy. Indeed, a zesty and appetizing dip, served with pita bread, lavash, crackers, nachos, or any finger food at a party, can enhance the flavour and make a mundane dish come to life. Guacamole, Aioli, Chipotle, Hummus, are some popular entrants.
Dips spell the essence of a cuisine. At the beginning of a meal, dips are normally presented with a bread, cracker or crudities as an ‘amuse bouche’ with the primary aim to titillate the palate.
Dips, today, have assumed exotic proportions with a variety of ingredients like blue cheese, avocado, edamame, Greek yogurt, making their way into these and chefs unleashing their imagination.
Any finger food or any nibble stuff is incomplete without a dip or the sauce accompanying it. It adds flavour, texture and even moisture to the dish.
Dips must be delicious, yet, easy to prepare, as these are only an accompaniment and not too much time and effort need go in these. Just a bit of chopping, mixing, roasting and tempering is all that one must have to do for a dip.
Cheese, sour cream, yogurt, tomatoes, vegetables, beans and chickpeas, are typical base ingredients for delectable dips. These are selected to give a moist and creamy texture, characteristic of a dip. Of course herbs, caramelized onions, garlic, lemon juice, nuts and olive oil, are added to enhance the flavour quotient.
Feta cheese, goat cheese, parmesan and cream cheese are preferred owing to their versatile textures. Today, however, instead of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is used because of its healthy nature and creamy texture.
Vegetables like tomatoes, jalapenos, eggplant, spinach, pumpkin, beetroot, lend themselves perfectly for dips. These are sometimes pureed after being boiled, or even added raw for that extra crunch. However, to get a unique flavour, try roasting the vegetables, before combining them with other ingredients in a dip.
Harissa, the spicy and aromatic chili dip with smoked peppers, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and other spices, staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, is gaining popularity in India too. Similarly, the avocado based guacamole, is now being given exotic flavour twists by chefs by adding fruits like pineapple, pomegranate and mango, or even edamame, kale and broccoli.
With its psychedelic colour, a beet dip is fun to serve with white and pale green vegetables like cauliflower and fennel. A little bit of honey and vinegar amps up the beet flavour.
A spinach and white bean dip can prove to be equally exciting for the palate, owing to its unique texture. Spinach combines well with cheese too, to make a luscious dip. Creamy beans and sweet sun-dried tomatoes offer the perfect texture and flavour combo in a dip.
The base gives moistness to the dip which can be yoghurt, cream, mayonnaise, soft cheese. However, one can even do without these, if the main ingredient has good moisture content.
Indeed, the list of ingredients that can be added to dips is endless. Fruits like pineapple, strawberries, mangoes, avocado, apples, plums, are the perfect choice for dips. A strawberry rhubarb dip is innovative, as is a zesty orange cream dip.
Whoever thought that dips are only vegetarian? Tuna with capers, olives and lemon; smoked salmon dip; Blue cheese, bacon and spinach dip, are some of the exciting non-vegetarian dips. Sea food like prawns and crabs, meats like bacon, chicken, are ingredients that can be paired with others to make a smooth, creamy dip.
Of course, today with people becoming health and fitness conscious, several ingredients are being replaced in dips to give them a healthy twist. Replacing sour cream with the Lebanese cheese lebneh, creates a dip that’s fairly low in fat; substituting non-fat fromage blanc or drained Greek yogurt makes the dip even healthier. Avocado is often the choice for healthy dips, as it is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
A dip made with fennel bulb slices, blanched broccoli florets, steamed new potatoes, and carrots is perfect to pair with crudites. Grilled red onions combined with light sour cream and non-fat Greek yogurt make a balanced and delicious dip for sweet potato chips.
Sweet dips can come handy for cookies and pretzels and are always popular. Fruits, chocolate, mascarpone cheese, peanut butter, are the typical ingredients used. Cream cheese, vanilla extract, orange zest, powdered sugar, orange juice and cream, combine to make a tasty sweet dip. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey and cinnamon powder, makes a creamy appetizing dip, children love. Of course chocolate, is a popular addition to most dips for children. Adults too love dips with chocolate, but don’t want to give up on healthy eating and thus opt for a dip made with cocoa powder, honey, vanilla extract and Greek yogurt.
With a minor twist and a skilful combination of ingredients, one can easily rustle up dips in a jiffy and have these become the talk of the party.