Peppery Watercress Spread

The slightly stinging bite of the watercress is the perfect complement to the velvety rich cream cheese. Though I mostly serve this as a dip, it’s a terrific and effortless addition to an omelet.
Watercress is a cousin to broccoli, kale, and mustard greens, all members of the cruciferous vegetable family. Ancient Greeks thought it would cure a deranged mind. It turns out that Popeye would have been better off eating watercress, since it contained about seven times more iron than spinach (and more calcium than milk!).

Makes about 1½ cups.

Sprigs from 1 bunch watercress (about 2 cups)
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature, or 1 cup Yogurt Cheese
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place watercress, reserving 2 springs for garnish, in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well combined.

2. Serve immediately, garnish with reserved watercress sprigs, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Variation: Substitute goat cheese for the cream cheese.
Serve with tortilla or pita chips or the crudités of your choice.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)

Ranch Dip

I have to admit that I only had ranch dressing from a bottle, and even that only a few times. But my daughter, Lauren, loves it, and I thought it would be great to have a homemade version. If you want to use it as a salad dressing, simply add more buttermilk until it reaches the desired consistency.

Makes 1½ cups.

½ cup sour cream or Yogurt Cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup finely diced or grated red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place all ingredients in a medium-size bowl and stir until well combined.

2. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving and up to 8 hours.

Serve with steamed tiny new potatoes still in their jackets.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)

Roasted Bell Peppers

Roasted Bell Peppers can be substituted for fresh bell peppers in any recipe. They’re great to have around anyway, as a tasty addition to sandwiches and omelets. You can’t even compare them to those you can buy in jars – it’s like the difference between fresh and frozen orange juice.

Bell peppers, any color

1. Preheat the broiler or oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the peppers directly under the broiler or in the oven and cook until blackened on all sides

3. Place the peppers in a heavy plastic or paper bag, close, and let sweat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the back, remove the burned skin, then stem and seed the peppers. Slice as desired and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)

Roasted Garlic

When I want strong garlic flavor but not too much garlic pungency, I substitute roasted garlic for fresh. You can use this in any recipe calling for fresh garlic for a different taste twist.

1 head garlic
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Makes about 2½ tablespoons, depending on size of the garlic head.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Remove as much of the peel from the garlic as possible, being careful to keep the head intact. Place the garlic on a large piece of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with the oil, and wrap the foil around it.

3. Roast until the garlic is soft and tender, about 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic from the peels and, if using it as a puree, mash with a fork. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)

Herby Cream Cheese

After I graduated from college, I worked at Essential Ingredients, a specialty market in Boulder, Colorado. Composed of two connected store fronts, one side carrying ingredients and the other prepared foods, it was way, way ahead of its time. This creamy, savory herb cheese was on the menu every day, and I ate it as a dip, a filling for omelets, a spread on sandwiches (smoked ham and honey mustard is a particularly good combo), and a topping for hamburgers. I have barely changed the recipe in all these years.

Makes 2½ to 3 cups

2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature, or 2 cups Yogurt Cheese
¼ to ½ cup buttermilk, as needed
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste

1. Place the cream cheese in a medium-size mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Gradually add the buttermilk until it achieves the consistency if cake icing, mashing until well combined.

2. Transfer to a small serving bowl and serve immediately, garnished with parsley, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Serve with bagel or pita chips or the crudités of your choice.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)